May 14, 2005
THE Singapore government said Saturday, May 14, politically motivated films were "an undesirable medium" to debate issues, as a documentary filmmaker faces possible charges over a movie about an opposition politician.
Martyn See is under investigation for Singapore Rebel, a 26-minute movie about Chee Soon Juan, a frequent critic of the government. Police said See may have violated the Films Act for knowingly distributing or exhibiting a "party political film."
He could be fined up to S$100,000 (US$60,606; €46,200) or imprisoned as long as two years if he's tried and convicted.
"Party political films are disallowed because they are an undesirable medium for political debate in Singapore," the Ministry of Information's communications director K. Bhavani said in an open letter published in the local Straits Times newspaper Saturday.
"They can present political issues in a sensational manner, evoking emotional rather than rational reactions," Bhavani said. "There remains ample opportunity for political parties and their supporters to express their opinions."
Bhavani's letter was an apparent reaction to See's yet-unscreened movie, and a letter from a group of Singapore filmmakers who castigated the country's laws, which appear to ban any movie criticizing government policy.
See made his maiden film independently and said he wanted to "chronicle the civil disobedience acts of Chee Soon Juan."
Chee currently faces bankruptcy after he was ordered to pay S$500,000 (US$303,000) to Singapore's former prime ministers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, for defaming them during an election campaign in 2001.
Singapore Rebel was earlier yanked from the Singapore International Film Festival - one of the country's showcase events to promote itself as an arts hub.
But See said his movie will be screened at other venues later this month - the New Zealand Human Rights Film Festival and the Amnesty International Film Festival in Hollywood.
Singapore, a wealthy Southeast Asian city-state, is widely criticized for its tight controls on political activity and the media.