The Straits Times
Oct 14, 2005
I REFER to Mr Chen Hwai Liang's letter, 'Govt doesn't depend on 'calibrated coercion' (ST, Oct 12), in which he reiterated that 'the Government must act when the law is broken, whether by opposition politicians or government supporters'.
Police are investigating independent Singaporean film maker Martyn See for making a documentary about an opposition leader as he may have violated the Films Act, which bans political advertising using film or video.
Earlier this year, MediaCorp screened a series on PAP leaders. Is it possible that it could have violated the Act? If yes, shouldn't it face police investigation too?
Kelvin Lau Jit Hwee
The letter writer may not be aware that a police report has been lodged against MediaCorp for the screening of Up Close and Success Stories.
Here are a few possible replies.
1. Section 40 the Films Act says
"This Act shall not apply to any film sponsored by the Government."
Therefore, in reply to the above query on the screening of 'Up Close' by MediaCorp's CNA, no police investigation will be initiated as the series was funded by the Government and hence is exempted from the Films Act. However, this does not mean that we practised a "one country, two laws" system. The Government makes responsible and unbiased films; Martyn See has made a irrensponsible and biased political film.
2. The Films Act also state that
"The Minister may, subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, exempt any person or class of persons or any film or class of films from all or any of the provisions of this Act."
Therefore, the Minister has decided that both 'Up Close' and 'Success Stories' are exempted from the Films Act and hence no investigation is required. Martyn See's "Singapore Rebel', on the other hand, has been deemed a 'party political film' for which he must face the consequences if charged and convicted. Ministers are responsible people who do not make biased judgements on what constitutes a biased film. Ministers are elected leaders who make informed and balanced decisons based on feedback and consultation with a view of ensuring the long-term well-being of Singapore.
3. Martyn See's video is being investigated by the police for presenting political issues in a 'biased, partisan' manner. His subject, Dr Chee Soon Juan, is an opposition member and the video is made to accentuate partisan politics. 'Up Close' and 'Success Stories', on the other hand, are balanced, non-partisan documentaries made about Government leaders. Broadcasters who produce and import shows about their own governments are the norm all over the world. We will risk falling behind if we penalise our broadcasters for putting out thoughtful documentaries about Singapore leaders.
4. We thank Mr Kelvin Lau for his letter and would like to inform him that a police report has indeed been filed against MediaCorp for the showing of 'Up Close' and 'Success Stories.' The Media Development Authority is looking into the matter. Meanwhile, Mr Martyn See has not been charged yet. We are mindful that the law must be applied equally.