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24th-Jun-2020

Web series censorship debate: TV, film personalities weigh-in

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Entertainment Desk :
Three web series - Shihab Shaheen’s 14th August, Sumon Anowar’s Sadar Ghater Tiger and Wahid Tarek’s Boomerang have recently came under fire for their alleged delineation of superfluous violence and objectionable sexual scenes.
A debate has taken the entertainment industry by storm ever since as to whether web series should be censored in order to separate obscene and immoral video content. On the heels of the controversy, 118 makers released a statement titled ‘Global digital entertainment industry and our thoughts’ on June 19, in which they have condemned the possible censorship of web content in Bangladesh.
The statement said: “We live in a time where our web series has given rise to the emergence of a burgeoning, lucrative media industry. Thousands of people have invested here and stand to lose or gain everything from it. Moreover, this industry has drawn the attention of the global market; what it needs now is timely directives.”
“On the question of what should be considered as appropriate web content, we should keep in mind that the bigger problem we are facing today is piracy. These days, web content is being made on the basis of ‘paid content’ system. A viewer can have access to a certain web drama only if he or she consents to it. The debate we have in our hands today is baseless because we are not addressing the real issue here. It is piracy owing to which certain web content has landed on YouTube, and a few scenes taken out of context have been making the rounds on social media platforms.”
“What we need to do is select our audience on the basis of age and decide as to what content should be free and what should remain in the ‘paid’ platform,” the 118 film and Television makers added to their statement.
Morshedul Islam, Giasuddin Selim, Amitabh Reza, Akram Khan, Animesh Aich, Dipankar Dipon, Redoan Rony, Shameem Akhtar, Nurul Alam Atique, Naznin Hasan Chumki are among the makers releasing this statement.
In response, 79 prominent figures of the country released another statement on June 21 detailing their objection to web series remaining free of censorship.
The statement said: “Since the inception of Bangladeshi drama, we have made it a point to publish content that are family-friendly, content that everyone can enjoy together at home. In the 80s, the Bangladeshi film industry lost a big part of its audience because of obscenity. It is time we learned from our prior mistakes.”
They  also said: “It is also a great matter of concern to us that these web contents can be easily pirated, in which case the content would be often taken out of context and leave our audiences perplexed. This is also unacceptable. We are asking artistes all over the country to join our efforts to champion morality in our entertainment.”
Mamunur Rashid, Aly Zaker, Abul Hayat, Dilara Zaman, Ferdousi Mazumder, Asaduzzaman Noor, ATM Samsuzzaman, Dr Enamul Haque, Jewel Aich are among the 79 distinguished figures who released the statement.
On the other hand, a legal notice was issued last Sunday seeking removal of inappropriate content from streaming sites in Bangladesh within 24 hours. Supreme Court lawyer Advocate Md Tanvir Ahmed sent the notice, claiming that the inaction and apathy of the concerned authorities in regards to widespread streaming of immoral and reprehensible video content were evidently contributing to societal moral degradation.
The notice then outlined how certain web contents were an ‘apparent violation of The Pornography Control Act, 2012 and The Digital Security Act, 2018.’