Saturday, April 09, 2005

"In the wrong hands film can have a powerful impact" - George Yeo

Singapore's censorhips laws of 1998

International Press Institute report on Singapore 1998

In the first months of 1998, the government took further steps to help the censors in their hard work with media technology, including widening its definition of "publication" and streamlining its various censorship bodies. Singapore’s government never hid its view that media censorship is necessary to protect moral values and maintain internal security, and so also announced that it didn’t want to exempt the media of the IT age. In order to execute this, they announced in February that they were pulling various media censorship and licensing bodies into one unit to make life easier for importers and others, partly "in response to the advances in technology".

It also expanded provisions of its act regulating "obscene" films to include new technologies like compact discs, digital video discs, electronic mail; and made similar changes in its publication act, expanding the definition of "publication" to include CD-ROMs, sound recording, pictures and drawings generated by computer graphics. Finally, a law was implemented banning political parties from making films and videos.

Several members of parliament criticised the move to ban parties from making videos or buying television time. Media regulations are generally widely accepted in Singapore in the belief that they are rooted in the nation’s history of racial and religious divisions. Singapore was formed by competing ethnic groups, playing against each other, and riots ensued. There is, therefore, a deep feeling of justification for regulation to restrict the press to avoid violence.

But the ban on political parties making videos was seen as a political manoeuvre by the leadership in power to weaken the opposition. Information and Art Minister George Yeo, however, dismissed objections, arguing that their "intention is to keep political debates in Singapore serious and not have them become like the selling of soap. In the wrong hands film can have a powerful impact," as he told parliament. Asked about the new regulations expanding censorship to new technologies, Yeo said: "It is not our objective to increase the level of censorship in Singapore. Just maintaining the existing level of censorship is difficult enough."

Parliament bans political party films by Washington Post. Feb 27, 1998.

Bill too sweeping and vague, say MPs by Straits Times Feb 28, 1998

A ban on political film and video sparks debate By AsiaWeek / Singapore

Minister Yeo on OB markers and Internet

"When the law on political videos was enacted, we could not confine it to political parties, because then the obvious way to get around it was to get a friendly non-party organisation to produce the video.

Therefore, we had to extend the law to include those whose purposes are obviously political even though they are not political parties. At the same time, it was obviously not in our interest to disallow all videos which covered political topics.

This then created an ambiguity in the position which is left to the Films Appeal Committee to settle. There was much debate in Parliament about whether this ambiguity could not be better defined. Well, we should if we could."

- Former Information and the Arts Minister George Yeo

What is a 'party political film?'

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