Saturday August 27, 2005
Cops want to seize "Singapore Rebel"
Singapore investigates film
AP , SINGAPORE
Saturday, Aug 27, 2005
A film director who could face charges over his documentary about an opposition politician said yesterday that police have asked him to surrender all remaining copies of the film and the equipment used to make it.
Martyn See said authorities have also asked him to hand over shipping documents for Singapore Rebel, which he sent for screening at the New Zealand Human Rights Film Festival and the Amnesty International Film Festival in Hollywood earlier this year.
See said police questioned him for three hours on Thursday.
Police have said See may have broken the law by knowingly showing or distributing a "party political film." See could be imprisoned up to two years or fined up to S$100,000 (US$60,606) if convicted.
Singapore's government is trying to promote this ultramodern city-state as an Asian regional arts and media hub -- but its leaders have been widely criticized for their strict censorship policies and other controls on free speech.
Leaders argue that such regulations help maintain the stability that has turned Singapore into one of Asia's safest and wealthiest countries.
Singapore Rebel is about outspoken government critic Chee Soon Juan, who faces bankruptcy due to defamation lawsuits filed by former leaders Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.
The 26-minute film was pulled from this year's Singapore International Film Festival after organizers were warned that it may contain some politically sensitive material.
See said that an assistant police superintendent questioned him on Thursday about his political affiliations.
He said police also quizzed him about his online journal, and about how he had obtained archived newspaper articles posted on his Web site.
"The mood was relaxed until near the end of the interview, when I felt many questions were totally irrelevant to the making of Singapore Rebel," See said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The filmmaker agreed to surrender the video, documents and copies on Aug. 29 after he was informed that the items would be returned.
Singapore's government has called politically motivated films "an undesirable medium" to debate issues. See has said he made the film independently and is not an opposition member.
Police spokesman Victor Keong confirmed that investigators met See on Thursday.
He gave no further details, saying only that "investigations are ongoing."
Friday August 26, 6:34 PM
Singapore police asks filmmaker to turn in camera
SINGAPORE, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Singapore police have asked a filmmaker to surrender a video camera and tapes he used to make a documentary on opposition figure Chee Soon Juan as part of its investigation for possible breach of film laws.
Martyn See, a 36-year-old Singapore filmmaker, told Reuters the demand was made after he had been questioned for three hours at a police station on Thursday in connection with his film "Singapore Rebel".
See said on Friday it was the second time Singapore authorities interviewed him about the 26-minute documentary he withdrew from the city-state's annual film festival in March under pressure from government censors, who told festival organisers the work violated the Films Act.
"The questions were more political than last time and I think they were intended to find out about my political affiliation," he said, adding that while the talk took place in a relaxed atmosphere he would object to the request to hand in his camera.
"I don't mind them inspecting the camera but I need it back to do my work," he said.
See said the police officer had offered no explanation as to why they wanted the video camera.
A police spokesman declined to comment.
Under provisions introduced to the Films Act in 1998, anyone involved in producing or distributing "party political films" -- including those containing commentaries on government policies -- can be fined up to S$100,000 ($59,840) or jailed up to two years.
The film at the heart of the controversy focuses on the life of Chee Soon Juan, who lost in January a three-year legal battle against defamation charges brought by Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and his successor.
In 2002, a documentary about veteran opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam was pulled from the film festival after its filmmakers were told it breached the act.
Opposition politicians have said the Films Act stifles political debate in the city-state, which has been ruled by the People's Action Party since independence in 1965. Its 84-member Parliament has only two opposition members.
Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, took over as the island republic's third prime minister last year, promising greater openness and saying Singaporeans "should feel free to express diverse views...or simply be different".
International free-press advocates have repeatedly criticised Singapore for its tight media controls, such as a government ban of non-commercial private ownership of satellite dishes. Films and TV shows are routinely censored for sex and violence.
The government says a high degree of control over public debate and the media is needed to maintain law and order.
The U.S. State Department, in its February annual report, sharply criticised Singapore for using libel suits to intimidate the opposition, saying the threat inhibits opposition politics and has led to a culture of self-censorship in the media. ($1 = 1.671 Singapore dollar)
Film maker to surrender political documentary to police
Agence France Presse
August 28, 2005
A SINGAPOREAN film maker whose documentary about a local opposition politician was banned from being shown in the city-state said Sunday, Aug 28, he would surrender his tapes to police as part of an investigation.
Martyn See was questioned by police for the second time last Friday about his movie "Singapore Rebel" and asked to surrender his video camera and the six existing tapes used as part of the documentary's production, he told AFP.
"Their reasoning is that the movie is deemed by MDA (Media Development Authority) to be a party political film," said See, 36.
"I do not think that it is, though," he said.
See said the police had not given any indication if charges will be filed against him and he planned to comply with the order to surrender the six mini-DV tapes on Monday -- but not his video camera.
"I have an issue about the (video) camera so I have asked the lawyer to formally request that the camera be inspected on the spot and returned to me," See said.
"I need the camera for my work... I fail to see why the camera should be confiscated," he said.
Singapore has often been criticised by human rights groups for maintaining strict political controls despite its rapid modernisation since becoming a republic 40 years ago this month.
The MDA classified See's documentary about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as having violated the Films Act because of its political content, an accusation that the film maker rejects.
If convicted, See could be jailed for up to two years or fined up to S$100,000 (US$60,000).
"It is not a party political film in the sense that I did not make it on behalf of anybody but myself, and it does not contain any mention of SDP," See said.
The documentary was to further his understanding of the plight of opposition politicians, said See, who does not see himself as a political activist.
"I wanted to find out through Chee Soon Juan's experience why the Singapore opposition is marginalised.
"I consider myself a video documentalist of social and political issues," he said.
Chee, the most vocal opposition politician in Singapore, is facing bankruptcy after the High Court ordered him to pay S$500,000 (US$300,000) for defaming the city-state's two former premiers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.
Singapore has been ruled by the People's Action Party of founding father Lee since independence. His son Lee Hsien Loong promised to loosen political restrictions after taking over as prime minister a year ago from Goh Chok Tong.
The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2005
Chee film tapes, camera for cops
FREELANCE filmmaker Martyn See, 36, will surrender to the police on Monday tapes and a video camera used to film a documentary on opposition politician Chee Soon Juan.
He was interviewed at Central Police Station in Cantonment Road on Thursday evening for about three hours.
The police wanted him to hand over his video camera and also the tapes of Singapore Rebel, a 26-minute documentary on Dr Chee's political activities. This is the second time Mr See has been called in for questioning over the film. The first was in May.
His film was withdrawn from the Singapore International Film Festival in March, after he was told it violated the Films Act. The law bans the making or distribution of 'party political' films.
These include advertisements by political parties or other political organisations here, or films 'directed towards any political end in Singapore'. A police spokesman confirmed Thursday's interview but would not comment further on the investigation.
Mr See said that while the interviewer was cordial, he felt the questions were more 'politically skewed' compared to May's session and he admitted to being 'a little shaken up'. He posted some of the questions on his blogsite singaporerebel.
They include: 'Did you make any application to be a member of any political party in Singapore?' and 'Do you have any intention to do so?'
Mr See said he has agreed to surrender the tapes on Monday. But he has also asked a lawyer to write to the police saying that seizure of the camera is unnecessary.
'I still need it for my work,' he said last night.