MARCH 11, 2005
Posted: April 8, 2005
Martyn See, documentary filmmaker
Independent documentary filmmaker Martyn See pulled his short documentary, "Singapore Rebel", from the Singapore International Film Festival after officials warned him that he might face criminal charges if the film was screened at the festival in April. The film chronicles the civil disobedience of opposition activist Dr. Chee Soon Juan.
The Board of Film Censors told festival director Philip Cheah on March 11 that the film was objectionable under the Films Act as it was deemed a "party political film," according to a report in The Straits Times. Screening such films could carry penalties of up to two years in jail, and fines of up to S$100,000 (U.S.$60,000). Cheah was "advised" to inform See to withdraw his film "whereby the matter would be dropped, failing which, the full extent of the law would apply," said festival director Lesley Ho in a subsequent email to See provided to CPJ.
On March 11, Ho told See that he should agree to a withdrawal immediately, because the Board of Censors had wanted an answer the same day. See reported on his blog that he was told he should not make an issue out of this, and that if he disagreed, "they will come after you, Martin."
The Board of Film Censors did not speak to See directly on the matter. See does not know if he will be charged for making the film, but told CPJ that he was concerned that his house might be raided in order to confiscate his master tapes.
APRIL 26, 2005
Posted: May 17, 2005
Jiahao Chen, freelance
The threat of legal action prompted Singaporean blogger Chen to shut down his site and post an apology for comments criticizing a government agency known as A*Star.
A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) acknowledged that it threatened to lodge a defamation suit against Chen, Channel NewsAsia reported. Chen, who is pursuing graduate studies in the United States, was formerly a scholarship student through the Singapore government. Under the pseudonym Acid Flask, he posted comments on his Web log criticizing A*Star's policies, according to other Internet news sources.
On April 26, Chen shut down his site and posted a statement that "the price of maintaining the content ... has become too high for the author to afford." He apologized to A*Star and to its chairman, Philip Yeo, "for having hosted or made remarks which Mr. Yeo felt were defamatory to him and the agency that he leads," and promised not to mention the chairman or the agency by name on the Web site.
Government agencies and officials in Singapore have often lodged civil and criminal defamation complaintswhich can bring large fines and jail timeagainst traditional media outlets that criticize them by name.
MAY 6, 2005
Posted: May 17, 2005
Martyn See, freelance
Police were investigating See, an independent documentary filmmaker, under Singapore's stringent Films Act.
On May 6, Assistant Superintendent of Police Chan Peng Khuang called See to inform him that police had received a copy of his film "Singapore Rebel" and had initiated an investigation, according to an account that See posted on his Web log. Chan did not elaborate on the reasons for the investigation, or any charges that might apply.
Police told international reporters that See is being investigated under the country's Films Act, which bans "party political" films. Making or distributing such a filmwhich can be defined as anything containing partisan references or commentaryis punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or two years in jail."Singapore Rebel" chronicles the civil disobedience of opposition activist Dr. Chee Soon Juan.
In an effort to avoid an investigation, See withdrew his film from the Singapore International Film Festival after the Board of Film Censors told festival director Philip Cheah on March 11 that the film was objectionable under the Films Act. Cheah was "advised" to inform See to withdraw his film "whereby the matter would be dropped, failing which, the full extent of the law would apply," wrote festival director Lesley Ho in an email to See. The film has not yet had a public screening anywhere in the world.