PETALING JAYA: We, the Freedom Film Network (FFN), a group of social filmmakers and human rights activists, call on the newly formed Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and in particular the newly appointed Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Singh Deo, to encourage an enabling environment, where independent filmmaking can flourish in line with Article 10(a) of the Federal Constitution – the right to freedom of speech and expression.
We urge the government to assure the Malaysian public that films dealing with human rights issues or matters of public interest will be free from politically motivated censorship. Instead of censoring content, the government should support and give recognition to non-commercial films and filmmakers, which highlight these important topics.
FFN strongly believe that filmmaking should not be looked upon as an industry solely for its entertainment or commercial value. Social filmmaking should be celebrated for its crucial role in nation building and for asking critical questions and providing alternative perspectives to Malaysians.
We are encouraged by recent announcements from members of parliament that restrictive laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 are currently under review. These legislations were all regularly invoked by the previous government to stifle opinion and expression, the right to information and were used to target human rights defenders, media personnel, artists and political opponents.
As filmmakers, we are particularly concerned by the Film Censorship Act (FCA) 2002, which has been a major legal hindrance in our work to promote human rights education through film. The need for the review or repeal of the FCA has repeatedly been highlighted by Malaysian lawmakers, human rights groups and UN Special Rapporteurs as essential to safeguard freedom of expression in Malaysia.
FFN have therefore submitted a legal brief on the FCA to the Institutional Reform Committee, which we strongly believe should be prioritised for repeal during the first parliamentary session. We look forward to engaging with the Committee further on this issue.
In 2013, the FCA was arbitrarily used against former Pusat KOMAS staff member and human rights activist Lena Hendry, when she was charged under Section 6(1) of the Act for screening the human rights documentary“No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” by award winning filmmaker Callum Macrae. On 22 March 2017, Lena was sentenced by the Kuala Lumpur Magistrates Court to pay a fine of RM10,000 or spend a year in jail. She paid the fine.
The prosecution of Lena Hendry under the FCA for showing a film regarding the civil war in Sri Lanka undermines the principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. FFN therefore call on the relevant authorities to expunge Lena Hendry’s criminal record as her charges were clearly politically motivated in nature. Likewise any other politically motivated charges against filmmakers, artists or media personnel should be immediately dropped.
Finally, FFN would also like to see the de-politicisation of film regulating bodies such as Lembaga Penapisan Filem and FINAS, who should be made independent and transparent in all their dealings.
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For media enquiries please contact:
Anna Har (FFN Executive Director)
FFN is a not-for-profit established to support and develop social documentary filmmaking within the context of freedom of expression and the values contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Malaysia. Among other activities, FFN run Malaysia’s leading annual human rights film festival FreedomFilmFest, which will take place from 29th September – 7th October 2018 at PJ Live Arts Petaling Jaya.
 Section 6(1) of the FCA – No person shall (a) have in his possession or in his custody or under his control; or circulate, exhibit, distribute, display, manufacture, produce, sell or hire, any film or film – publicity material which has not been approved by the Board.