[UPDATE 19 October 2013. Doing a little blog maintenance here. Unfortunately the KSCB website was taken down shortly after the Shekarau government left power in 2010. I saved the pages to my computer before it was taken down, but it is no longer available online.]
On the 18th of March I attended the Mambayya House premier of the film Yancina made under the auspices of “Promoting Women’s Rights through Shari’ah.” While chatting with Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at the event, he informed me that the Kano State Censorship Board website, which was under construction last time I checked has finally opened.
The site is a really fantastic resource for researchers and filmmakers alike. The homepage includes an essay, which appears to be written by the director general of the board Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (whom I interviewed at the end of January), laying out the purposes and philosophy of the censorship board.
Also on the blog are links to the state censorship board publications including the law of 2001 and subsequent guidelines, press releases, lists of registered stakeholders, a list of registered production companies, a list of registered cinemas, a list of registered soccer viewing centres, a list of censored books, and a list of films censored in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. (Noticeably absent is 2006). Another link on the website is to “articles on the Censorship board.” So far there is one article with no byline, titled “Kano Censorship and the Burden of Moral Defense.” Here are some exerpts from the article:
But when the charismatic Mal. Rabo Abdulkareem was wisely appointed as the executive secretary (110w Director General) by Mallam as a result of the infamous Hiyana saga, the name of the Kano state censorship Board became a household name.
Tasked with the burden of control and supervision of the information and ideas that are circulated in the society, the activities of the Kano state Censorship Board have already started impacting favorably and this is appreciated by the public All of a sudden tile public happily realized that the previously otiose board can now really defend their helplessly invaded morality.
The hitherto unprecedented expansion and circulation of immorality via the activities of the so called Kannywood or Hausa filmmakers was perfectly checked and stopped by the Rabo led censorship to the admiration and pleasure of the public.
The shameless and destructive activities of the filmmakers were thriving to the chagrin of’ the society to the extent that some pessimists have given up. All the pleas, calls and sermons by different groups of people to the filmmakers to effect corrections in their activities as well as their films were sternly’ rebuffed by the filmmakers. This is the reason for the euphoria that trailed Rabo’s bold move to tackle the disturbing activities of the filmmakers which was timely successful.
It is quite surprising the way some of the writers chose to confront the board in a Kannywood like manner. Even the hitherto respected among them inanely wrote many things that put their integrity to question. They sound and behave as worst as any lawless uneducated could. While the board is saying that all forms of obscenity should be stopped and that the books should conform with the culture and religion of the targeted audience in addition to the registration of the writers with the board among other things, these people are busy writing different sorts of bunkum in order to blackmail the board. All their arguments were based on subauditions, or more correctly, assumptions, and nothing more. Some of them were even proposing to take the matter up to their masters i.e. the international community in order to come to their aid, just as the Kannywood cohorts tried, as if the so called international community is that rotten.
I will likely do more analysis of the site later on this blog or in my own academic work, but I note a few interesting things:
1) On the homepage of the Censorship Board are a list of “useful links”. They include A Daidaita Sahu (the government agency for “societal reorientation”), the Sharia Commission, Gamji (a news website that focuses on northern Nigerian news), the National Film and Video Censors Board, and two newspapers, the Kano-state government owned Triumph Newspaper, which regularly publishes pro-censorship and anti-Hausa film opinion pieces, and the Abuja-based Daily Trust, which has several times re-printed the said opinion pieces from the Triumph [as I have noted elsewhere]. Noticeably absent is the newspaper, Leadership, which most often publishes news about Kannywood and opinion pieces critical of the censorship board. Of course, this isn’t surprising, but I do find it interesting that Triumph and Trust were the two papers chosen to be included on the list.
2) A related observation: in the “Censorship Board in the News” link, the only two articles posted (as of today) were the Open Letter to the American Embassy in Nigeria, by Asabe Murtala (later published in Trust under the name Asabe Muktar, as I point out in an earlier post), and the director general’s response to a critique of the board published in This Day.
3) I love it that the Censorship Board is making all of this information available to the public. Open access to the 2001 censorship law and related publications is especially encouraging. However, I wonder how frequently the website will be updated and how that might impact arguments the board makes in individual cases with “erring” stakeholders. For example, will the list of registered stakeholder, production companies, and censored books be updated every time a new stakeholder or production company registers and a new book is censored? Will each company and stakeholder be removed from the list at the beginning of each year and be added back when they have paid their renewal fee for each new year?
On the whole, I find this an extremely positive development. I am encouraged by the open access to information, but also cautious about the “spin” placed on that information by the board. Of course, as I note of my own blog, it is their website, so “spin” that presents “their” side of the story is certainly their prerogative. It’s certainly a rich resource for my own research.