Said Zahari in forced exile on Pulau Ubin, 1979
SINGAPORE, April 24, 2007 (AFP) - A press freedom group called Tuesday for Singapore to reverse its ban on a film about a former political detainee.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the ban was "another authoritarian measure violating press freedom" in the city-state. Singapore banned the film on former detainee Said Zahari, calling it a"misleading and distorted portrayal" of his detention which could undermine confidence in the government.
The film "Zahari's 17 Years" was directed by Singaporean filmmaker Martyn See, who had earlier been investigated by police for making a film on opposition leader Chee Soon Juan.
"The ban on See's film must be lifted," RSF said in a statement.
"This act of censorship is all the more inappropriate and ridiculous as his films are available on websites," it said.
"We call for the liberalisation of the censorship and internal security laws that deprive Singaporeans of an environment favourable to free speech."
Singapore's ministry of information said See's film "gives a distorted and
misleading portrayal of Zahari's arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act in 1963."
It called the film "an attempt to exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist united front activities against the interest of Singapore."
In the film, the elderly self-exiled journalist, poet and author reflects on his 17 years in detention.
Singapore has often been criticised by human rights and media groups for maintaining strict political controls despite its rapid economic modernisation.
But the government says the strict laws are necessary to maintain law and order -- a pillar of the country's economic prosperity.
On Friday, producers of a Singapore film about a man and boy struggling with their mutual sexual desire said they had withdrawn it from public screening at the city-state's film festival.
The decision to withdraw "Solos" came after Singapore censors made three cuts to scenes depicting homosexual and group sex, the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) told AFP.
RSF's Press Release