18 May 2005

Law and Process

A Great Singapore Purge Now On! Edition

Martyn See was interviewed in the middle of the night by the Police yesterday.

The highlight of his post:

More importantly, I was finally informed of the reason for this police investigation.

ASP Chan said: "I'm informing you that the MDA (Media Development Authority) has on April 11 lodged a police report alleging that Singapore Rebel is a party political film. Do you have anyhing to say to that?"

The mind boggles. Under Sec. 23 of the Film Act, the police are indeed authorised to conduct interviews, launch a search without a warrant, etc. to investigate if a film has not been submitted to the Film Board for classification.

The police are not empowered to investigate if a film is, as alleged by members of the public, a political film. The MDA is in charge of the Film Board, and it should know that it has to first classify Mr See's documentary as a political film in order for the Film Act to be thrown at him. (Of course, this is not the only way the Film Act can be thrown, as I will show shortly after.)

Why then has the MDA lodged a complaint to the police that Mr See has made a political film? Is the police supposed to classify the film for the Film Board? Why is the Film Board not the one lodging a complaint that Singapore Rebel has not been submitted for censorship, as required under sec. 12 (1)?

The police has asked several questions which are appear irrelevant to sec. 12 (1), which Mr See has undeniably violated. They asked instead, "Is Dr Chee a personal friend of yours? Are you a member of any political party in Singapore?" and "Who conceptualised it? Who produced it? Who shot it? Who edited it? Who funded it? How much was spent? What was the objective of the film?"

Once again, I repeat: the police are NOT empowered under the Film Act to decide whether a film is a political film. Perhaps these questions would be more "appropriate" coming from the Film Board.

Films made in Singapore to be deposited in approved warehouse

If Mr See is guilty of any crime, it is this: he has not submitted his documentary to the Film Board for classification.

Sec. 12 states

(1) The owner of any film made in Singapore shall, within 7 days after the making of the film, deposit the film in a warehouse approved for this purpose [Aki: i.e. licensing and classification] by the Board.

(2) Any person who fails to deposit the film in accordance with subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000.

And to make it perfectly clear, sec. 2 says a film is:

(a) any cinematograph film;

(b) any video recording, including a video recording that is designed for use wholly or principally as a game;

(c) any other material record or thing on which is recorded or stored for immediate or future retrieval any information that, by the use of any computer or electronic device, is capable of being reproduced or displayed as wholly or partly visual moving pictures,

and includes any part of a film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film;

Yes. Technically speaking, anything you shoot with a camcorder and have not submitted to the Film Board for classification violates the law. Baby video. Wedding video. Birthday video. EVERYTHING.

Any clip you shot with a cameraphone and videophone comes under the purview of the Film Act.

In case you don't get the point of it all, refer to sec. 78A (3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act:

During the elections period, ANYONE WHO:

(a) provides any programme on the World Wide Web through what is commonly known as the internet under a class licence; and

(b) is required under the conditions of the class licence to register with the Media Development Authority of Singapore on account of that person or group of persons engaging in or providing any programme for the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore.

Presumably, this unironic, wide-ranging, vaguely-phrased law was crafted to prevent political parties from using non-official websites to campaign for them during an election period.

Let's see if the police haul up all bloggers during the next election period for not registering with the MDA. Or if the MDA lodges a police report that some blogger has opened a political site.

Why oh why are we ruled by these fools?

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