The Straits Times
Oct 15, 2005
I refer to the letter, "Films Act : Did MediaCorp run foul of the law?" (ST, Oct 14), by Mr Kevin Lau Jit Hwee. He asked if MediaCorp's screening of a series on PAP leaders earlier this year could have violated the Films Act.
The series referrred to is the programme Up Close, which featured five ministers. In the series, the ministers discussed with invited guests policy issues pertaining to their portfolios, such as youth, employment, education and health.
The series clearly did not breach the Films Act as the discussions were conducted in a non-partisan manner and were aired by MediaCorp for the purpose of reporting current affairs.
K. Bhavani (Ms)
Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts
1) Interesting that MICA has chosen not to invoke the exemptions provided for in Section 40 of the Films Act but opted instead for Section 33 which allows films relating to "reporting of current events." Does this mean that anyone who wishes to make a documentary about opposition figures can now do so if they follow exactly the same format as 'Up Close?'
2) More than one person has commented to me that 'Singapore Rebel' feels exactly like 'Up Close'. My video does not contain a single mention of Chee Soon Juan's party nor its platforms. Until now, MDA has not told me exactly why 'S'pore Rebel' has been deemed a 'party political film.' The above letter does not bother to disclose the reason either.
3) The police report lodged against MediaCorp for the screening of 'Up Close' includes another documentary, made by Hong Kong-based RTHK and shown on CNA in 2002. Success Stories : Lee Kuan Yew charts the political career of Lee Kuan Yew and contains scenes on the Government's responses to political opponents such as Francis Seow, Tang Liang Hong, JB Jeyaratnam and Chee Soon Juan. Would the Government qualify this documenatary as "non-partisan" and aired "for the purpose of reporting current affairs" as well?
4) Interesting that the above letter has chosen the term "ministers" instead of "PAP ministers" and "non-partisan" rather than "unbiased." Section 33 of the Films Act, for which I am under investigations for, is much broader than that. That MICA has now given the all-clear to Up Close means that the series
- did not contain any wholly or partly any matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore
- did not contain wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter, including
i) an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
(ii) a candidate or group of candidates in an election;
(iii) an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
(iv) the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government;
(v) a Member of Parliament;
(vi) a current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore; or
(vii) a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body.
The above letter suggest that all five episodes of Up Close did not make a single biased reference to any of the above.
(Martyn See can only scratch his head and wait for the next police call...)