Archie comic banned in Singapore as censorship row escalates

SINGAPORE Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:20pm IST

An image from an issue of ''Life with Archie'' is pictured courtesy of Archie Comics Publications. Archie Andrews, the redheaded American teenager in the ''Archie'' comic book series, will die taking a bullet protecting his gay friend in the issue that comes out on July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Archie Comics Publications/Handout via Reuters

An image from an issue of ''Life with Archie'' is pictured courtesy of Archie Comics Publications. Archie Andrews, the redheaded American teenager in the ''Archie'' comic book series, will die taking a bullet protecting his gay friend in the issue that comes out on July 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Archie Comics Publications/Handout via Reuters

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has banned a volume of the "Archie" comic book that featured a same-sex marriage, adding fuel to a censorship row that erupted over a children's story about two male penguins hatching an egg.

"Archie: The Married Life Book Three" was taken off book shop shelves following a complaint to Singapore's Media Development Authority which found it was not in line with social norms and breached their content guidelines.

News of the ban, which was imposed earlier this year but came to light late on Wednesday, comes a week after Singapore's National Library Board said it was to destroy three children's books seen as being pro-homosexual, including penguin story "And Tango Makes Three".

That prompted about 400 people to turn out on Sunday for a "read in" of the books in the national library's atrium, while on Wednesday, three authors resigned as judges from Singapore's main literature prize in protest against the move.

Singapore has tight rules on censorship, banning Playboy magazine and blocking dozens of websites in what it has described as "a symbolic statement of the types of content which the community is opposed to".

However, whether homosexual content falls into that category is a thorny issue. A growing groundswell of support for gay rights is being met with noisy protests from religious groups, keen to maintain the status quo of sex between two men being illegal.

Last month, a record crowd turned out for a gay-rights rally called "Pink Dot" while several Christian and Muslim groups protested against it by wearing white.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim has said he supports the library's stand, although unusually not all members of the governing People's Action Party (PAP) share that view.

"I do not believe homosexuality falls in the category of issues which should be excluded," said Hri Kumar Nair, a PAP member of Parliament in a Facebook post titled Pulp Friction.

"But I think most neutrals would agree that children should read books with controversial themes supervised," he added.

For Archie, the volume's removal from book shelves in Singapore comes as the redheaded American teenager is due to exit the comic world altogether.

Next week, an issue will be released in the United States that shows him dying as he takes a bullet protecting a gay friend.

(Reporting by Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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