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Fact-check: Censor board cleared Barbie but Punjab govt halted screening

By News Desk
July 26, 2023

ISLALABAD: Viral online posts have alleged that Hollywood’s Barbie has been banned in Pakistan’s Punjab province after its censor board refused to issue a clearance to the film over “objectionable content”. The claims are misleading, Geo News reported.

Claim: “People are waiting for Barbie and the Punjab censor board has banned this movie,” wrote one social media user on July 21.

“Punjab’s censor board has withheld NOC for the movie unless ‘objectionable’ content is removed,” tweeted a verified account. Similar claims were shared.

Fact: The claims are misleading. The regulator, the Punjab Film Censor Board, had cleared Barbie for release in the province for July 21. However, a day later the Punjab government yanked the film from cinemas over supposedly “pro-LGBT” content.

Two members of the Punjab Film Censor Board, Muhammad Haseeb and Rehan Shehzad, confirmed to Geo Fact Check that they had issued the Hollywood production a “censor certificate”, therefore, clearance to run, after minor editing. It hit the cinemas in Punjab, and the rest of Pakistan, on July 21.

However, on July 22, the secretary Ministry of Information and Culture in Punjab used his power under the law to recall the film, after which it was removed from cinemas in the province, say members of the censor board. The Punjab Film Censor Board is an attached wing of the Information and Culture Department in the province. Amir Mir, the caretaker information and culture minister in Punjab, also confirmed that the provincial government had concerns over the film’s content, alleging that it showed homosexuality.

“There is a gay character in it,” Mir told Geo Fact Check, over the phone, “You can Google and find out if there is any such thing in it or not.” The caretaker minister added that the film will be reexamined in a few days and after “censoring dialogues” it may be allowed screening.

It is important to note that Barbie has been released in the rest of Pakistan and was cleared for screening in Sindh and Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad. When asked why censor boards in other provinces did not find the purportedly “pro-LGBT” content and allowed its release, Mir said: “Other provinces probably like this kind of stuff. We have a problem with it.” Rehan S. Khan, secretary of Punjab’s Film Censor Board, however, denies there is any such content in the film. “Yes, there was objectionable material which was excised by the Board, but none expressing homosexuality,” he said.