- Advertisement -

Big Brother watching: Publishers slam presence of home ministry officers at KL book fair

They say the presence of enforcement officers shows a lack of reforms in the government.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
Enforcement officers from the home ministry seen at the 2023 Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair. Photo: Facebook Benz Ali
Enforcement officers from the home ministry seen at the 2023 Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair. Photo: Facebook Benz Ali

Authors and publishers have questioned the presence of enforcement teams from the home ministry at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair (PBAKL), calling it proof of a lack of reforms on the part of the government on the local publishing scene. 

They said enforcement personnel were present at the booths without any explanation to visitors since the first day of the book fair last Friday. 

Writer Zin Mahmud said this showed that there had been no reforms in the home ministry in this respect. 

Zin, a former senior editor at Utusan Malaysia, also said that the presence of government enforcement officers was a continuation of the policy enacted in the days without the internet or social media. 

"I greatly regret their visit to the book festival as it shows that the government wants to clamp down on writing freedom," he said. 

"It is a form of intimidation against the writers and publishers, and shows that the government does not trust the people."

This year's PBAKL, the 40th edition, features 815 booths with exhibitors from both Malaysia and abroad. 

Scheduled to continue until June 4, it is being run in hybrid mode for a second year in collaboration with e-commerce platform Shopee. 

Zin said visits by enforcement teams had been a common feature of the book fair for a long time. 

Another producer and exhibitor who called himself Benz Ali meanwhile shared photos of the enforcement team at PBAKL on his Facebook page. 

When contacted by MalaysiaNow, he confirmed that the officers had been present.

However, he said it was normal procedure, and that no books or reading material had been confiscated. 

"But PBAKL hasn't ended yet," he added. "There are still a few more days. We don't know what might happen." 

In the comment section of his Facebook post, some social media users criticised the home ministry's move.

They said there was nothing to be feared in books, and that the government should be more concerned about videos and online material which could influence people more quickly. 

"Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan rule the same way," said user Abdul Razak Endot.  

"The home ministry is hardworking enough to visit my shop," user Syedshahriman Jamalullayl added. 

Benz meanwhile agreed with Zin that little appeared to have changed in terms of the home ministry's approach to local publications. 

"It looks like things are still the same as they were under previous governments," he said. 

"At the Kuala Lumpur Alternative Bookfest 2023 in February, personnel from the home ministry were there too," he said, referring to the festival in Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur.