Saturday, May 23, 2020

No televised prayer calls on Hari Raya as religious content not allowed on free-to-air TV, MCI announces additional programming

SINGAPORE - The communal prayer calls for Hari Raya Aidilfitri and the special sermon on Sunday will not be broadcast on television because no religious content can be shown on free-to-air channels, the authorities said on Thursday (May 21).

In the lead-up to the holiday, the Government has received feedback requesting that the prayers, or takbir, and the sermon be made more widely accessible to the Muslim community, including on TV, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) noted.

"The Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) free-to-air television code does not allow for religious content in order to maintain a secular public broadcast service in our multi-religious society," the ministry said. "The Government has been working with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to support the Muslim community's religious needs through other channels," MCI added.

Muis also said that all television programming is guided by IMDA's free-to-air television code, which disallows any form of religious content on channels here.

Members of the Malay/Muslim community had expressed concern over why the takbir will be broadcast only on radio and livestreamed online - and not on local Malay-language TV channel Suria.

A Facebook post by Muis on the broadcast announcement on Monday (May 18) saw Facebook users asking why the prayer calls will not be aired on Suria.

An Abdeel Haleem pointed out that using the Internet might not be easy for senior citizens, who would already be sad as their children cannot visit them on Aidilfitri due to the circuit breaker.

Muis said last Friday (May 15) that people should not make visits or hold gatherings for Aidilfitri to protect their loved ones, especially seniors facing higher health risks, as the festive occasion falls during the circuit breaker which lasts until June 1.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or Hari Raya Puasa, marks the end of the Ramadan fast. Muslims usually visit mosques in the morning to perform special prayers, recite the takbir and listen to the sermon. But all places of worship, including the 70 mosques, are closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

On the eve of Aidilfitri on Saturday (May 23), the takbir after the last breaking of fast will be led by Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir and religious teachers. This will be livestreamed via YouTube on SalamSG TV and the Facebook pages of Muis and local mosques. SalamSG TV is a YouTube channel that has been providing religious messaging and guidance, as well as lifestyle and motivational content.

On the morning of Aidilfitri, there will be a live takbir via Malay-language radio station Warna 94.2 FM, as well as online on the Facebook pages of the local mosques.

MCI noted Warna 94.2FM broadcasts the takbir on Hari Raya eve as well as the takbir and Mufti's khutbah on Hari Raya every year. It has added 10 minutes to its existing one hour of daily religious programming since the closure of mosques, and this will continue till they fully reopen, the ministry added.

IMDA's content code for nationwide managed transmission linear TV services says that TV as a mass medium should be kept secular, and that programmes of a "proselytic" nature should not be broadcast. "Service providers should bear in mind Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious context. They should exercise due caution and discretion when featuring the activities, beliefs, practices or views of any racial or religious group," it said.

MCI added it is working with Mediacorp on special programmes on Channel 5 and Suria on Hari Raya eve to bring the nation together to celebrate Hari Raya with the Muslim community. These include special performances to uplift the spirit of all Singaporeans.

The Hari Raya special will include messages from President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.

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