Over the weekend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysians were treated to 38 films which had explicitly promoted themes of human rights, freedom of expression and other socio-political issues, including an unapologetically one-sided film higlighting the injustices of the Internal Security Act.
As a true blue, law-abiding Singaporean, I had asked the organiser of the Freedom Film Festival if any of the films were submitted to the authorities for approval. She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, "No, but if they want to censor us, we'll defend our rights to freedom of expression."
So that's how things are in Malaysia. They just do it, and worry about consequences later.
After the festival, I took the coach back to Singapore. Upon crossing the causeway, I was greeted by this piece of news. The homecoming couldn't have been more sobering.
Published in the Straits Times, July 12 2005
No cert, so video shown at SDP leader's book launch seized
The police have seized a video that was screened at the launch of a book by oppoistion leader Chee Soon Juan last Saturday.
The organisers had not applied for a certificate to show the Hong Kong-made film, said the police.
The clip - titled July and which documents peaceful protests by Hong Kong people on July 1, 2003, against a proposed national security law - was screened while Dr Chee was signing copies of his new book.
The book, The Power of Courage, advocates the use of non-violent protests and civil disobedience against what Dr Chee described as "unjust laws" here.
The book launch at Grand Plaza Parkroyal was attended by about 50 members of the public, including supporters from Dr Chee's Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Workers' Party.
"We have more important things to do!", said this unidentified police officer.
Yesterday, a police spokesman said: "During the event, a video disc was screened to the public.
"As the disc did not possess a certificate for its public exhibition, it was seized under the Films Act for investigations."
Asked if he knew that he could not air the film here without a certificate, Dr Chee, who organised the event, said he "didn't even know the video was being screened."
However, a presenter did announce that it would be screened during his autograpgh session.
When queried about the annoucement, Dr Chee said: "You will have to ask the presenter."
The police questioned Dr Chee on Saturday but declined to say if more people were being interviewed. They are still investigating the matter.