HUMAN RIGHTS RESOURCE CENTER MALAYSIA

CENSORSHIP IN NO FIRE ZONE!

Posted on: July 5, 2013

 Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:59

NO FIRE ZONE: Zahid, police shut down NGOs’ film screening

Written by Pusat KOMAS

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On the evening of the 3rd of July (Wednesday night) KOMAS a human rights NGO together with the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC) co-organized a film screening of the moving documentary film called “No Fire Zone” directed by Callum Macrae.

At about 8.30, after 30 minutes from the time the screening started, KDN officials, Immigration officials and the police were present in mass numbers in the venue of Chinese Assembly hall and requested to enter the venue to check the film.

The organizers negotiated with them to allow the screening to continue and enter after the screening is over.

Abuse of power

However, after the screening, they insisted that all participants’ IC had to be checked before they left the venue. This is a clear abuse of power as it was not necessary for them to harass the audience who had just come to watch the movie.

Later on after the film screening, the KDN and Police team numbering about 30 officers ordered the organizers namely the 3 KOMAS representatives, Ms Anna Har (KOMAS Board of Director), Mr Arul Prakkash (Executive Director) and Ms Lena Hendry (KOMAS Programme officer).

The KDN team had requested for a copy of the film which we as the organizers willingly cooperated and downloaded the soft copy of the documentary “No Fire Zone”.

Later, we were taken to IPD Dang Wangi to have our statement recorded. We asked the officers if we were being arrested and they said no over and over again. We were only informed that we were being arrested midway through the statement taking and questioning session by the investigating officers at the Dang Wangi Police station.

They were joined by Mr Tan Jo Hann (Board of Director of KOMAS) and Lawyers Mr New Sin Yew, Ms Seira Sasha And later joined by Mr Farez Jinnah At the Dang Wangi Police station where they were were questioned for almost 3 hours by the investigating team from the KDN.

We believe the manner in which our arrests were made is also against police procedures which require the police to inform a person if he/she is being arrested. We were very shocked and amazed at the officials for carrying out this action without proper basis, proper warrants or notice being issued.

At About 2am in the morning they were finally released on police bail. The charge was according to the Seksyen 6 of Film Censorship Act which says no one should screen any film or related publicity materials which is not approved by the board.

In fact earlier on on July 1st 2013, KOMAS staff, Ms. Lena Hendry had received a call from the Censorship Board, Ministry of Home Affairs who had asked us as the organizers to stop the screening because the film had not gone under censorship. We answered them that the screening is a private screening and invitation was by invitation only.

Furthermore, there were also strong attempts by the Sri Lankan embassy to stop the screening. They had faxed a letter to the KLSCAH to state their intention, and also we were informed that the embassy representatives had also appeared in person at the KLSCAH in an attempt to meet with the organizers and persuade them to stop the film screening. They were told to return at 6.30 pm to meet the organizers but they never showed up.

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Malaysia has always taken an interest in issues affecting people around the world, for example the Palestinians, Rohingyas and many other issues. This particular documentary film provides a very effective platform for discussing the urgent concerns which are prevailing in Sri Lanka today. KOMAS merely provided the platform and opportunity for the Malaysian people to become aware of these issues.

In any democratic nation, differing views and even dissent are resolved through debates and discussions. However it is truly sad to see that in Malaysia who claims to be a democratic and modern nation, the authorities had used an iron fist to clamp down on this basic right of freedom of expression. It has used strong arm tactics to curb free discussion and debates even-though it has been guaranteed under article 10 of the Malaysian constitution.

We urge the Sri Lankan government through its Malaysian Embassy to in fact boldly hold a dialogue session with the Malaysian people so that it can also express its views and have meaningful dialogue with the Malaysian people. We also urge them to not hide behind the Malaysian government using undemocratic and crude repressive tactics to repress freedom of expression and free speech.

We also would like to ask the Malaysian government especially the Ministry of Home Affairs, who is actually in charge of our country? The Sri Lankan government?

As citizens of this country, we have every right to have our freedom to express and dialog on issues that is the threat to humanity. Sri Lankan war crimes was a clear threat to humanity and the number of lives that were lost deserves the voice of the world to speak that. And as a responsible government, they should allow this discussion and not clamp it down using the enforcement agencies.

Pusat Komas

Read more: http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=124042:no-fire-zone-zahid-police-shut-down-film-screening&Itemid=2#.UdZP1zssXfs#ixzz2Y8x3SMZS

 

NGOs condemn disruption of movie screening

Alfian ZM Tahir

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 | July 4, 2013

They claim violation of rights by KDN and police who tried to stop the showing of a documentary on the Sri Lanka civil war.

VIDEO INSIDE

KUALA LUMPUR: Several human rights groups have condemned the Home Ministry (KDN) and the police for disrupting a private screening of a documentary film at the Chinese Assembly Hall last night and harassing the organisers and audience.

Representatives of the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCH CRC), Komas and Suaram told a press conference today that KDN officials and police barged into the screening room about 30 minutes after the start of the documentary, a British production about the Sri Lanka civil war entitled “No Fire Zone”.

“They came in and told us to stop the screening,” said Komas director Arul Prakash. “We didn’t stop. However, after the show, they insisted on checking the identity cards of all the participants. Why was there a need to ask the audience to produce ICs? It was ridiculous and an intimidation.”

The organisers said the enforcement team, numbering about 30, ordered them to go the Dang Wangi police station and they obeyed, thinking they merely had to get their statements recorded. However, to their surprise, they were informed that they were under arrest, they added.

“We asked the officers if we were being arrested, but at first they said ‘No,’” Prakash said. “We were informed we were under arrest only midway through the interrogation.

KLSCH Civil Committee chairman Liau Kok Fah said his organisation had earlier received a letter from the Sri Lankan embassy asking it not to screen the documentary.

“We received a fax from the embassy and we were accused of supporting terrorism,” Liau said. “They wanted us to stop the show, but why are they interfering in Malaysian NGO matters?

“We invited them to attend the show so we could get their side of story. But they never came.”

Prakash said Komas had told the Sri Lankan government through its embassy to hold a dialogue with the Malaysian public instead of hiding behind the government in Putrajaya in trying to repress free speech.

 

– See more at: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2013/07/04/ngos-condemn-disruption-of-movie-screening/#sthash.GnMvnMFk.dpuf

 

THURSDAY, JULY 4, 2013

Censorship in the No Fire Zone

 “By investigating war crimes in Sri Lanka I am acting no differently, than when I made films investigating allegations of war crimes by British and American forces in Iraq.”

 – Callum Macrea, director of ‘No Fire Zone’

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COMMENT Certain news items get lost in the shuffle. We begin to expect certain reactions from the current regime when it comes to the censorship of certain “sensitive matters”. However, when the security apparatus of the state is used on the behest of others or the perception of this is created, that really sticks in my craw.

By now, some readers may have become aware of the commotion at the screening of Callum Macrea’s ‘No Fire Zone’ at the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Wednesday.

Macrea, who with his series of Channel 4 documentaries on the alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan security forces during the final phases of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, gained international acclaim not to mention caused international outrage against the Sri Lankan government.

The Sri Lankan government has attempted to portray Macrea as a paid LTTE propagandist but as Macrea (left) reminded everyone in an interview withCeylon Today, “Can I remind you what my films have said, over and over again: The LTTE is guilty of war crimes. They are guilty of using terror tactics, of forcibly conscripting child soldiers and using suicide bombers. In the latest film ‘No Fire Zone’, I ran horrifying footage of LTTE suicide attacks in areas full of innocent civilians.”

So all this talk of being a paid sympathiser for the LTTE is bunkum, which surprisingly enough is the kind of tactics employed by certain governments against journalists like Robert Fisk and Eric Margolis.

 

Embassy calls the shot

 

At an arranged meeting with Macrea by a young former journalist turned DAP activist before the screening of his documentary together with a prominent social scientist of a leading national university, we discussed his work amongst other issues and the ineffectiveness of the United Nations in Sri Lanka and other parts of world.

Then I went for the screening of the documentary. Ten minutes into the screening, the state security apparatus showed up wanting entry into the venue. Now, the Sri Lankan government had already made it clear that they did not want this documentary to be screened.

I asked KLSCAH representative Tang Ah Chai about themanoeuvres madeby the Sri Lankan authorities with regard to the screening of this film.

He said: “On July 2, the personal assistant of Sri Lanka High Commission (SLHC) Dilrukshi Seneviratne called me and said that they wanted to meet with our (KLSCAH) president on July 3. But there was no mention of any matter to be discussed.

“My president was not available at the suggested time, so Mr Liau Kok Fah (chairperson of Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH) followed up with SLHC. On July 3, around 8.30pm, I received a fax from SLHC.”

Of interest to readers is the content of the fax, which states: “I would like to inform you that it has been brought to our notice that a group of sympathisers of proscribed LTTE terrorist organisation has been making arrangements to screen a documentary film titled ‘No Fire Zone’ that is based on false distorted facts of events during the fight against the LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka.

“I have also been informed that the Censorship Board of the government of Malaysia has not granted them permission for them to screen such a film. I am of the view that screening such a documentary would affect the harmony and peaceful coexistence of different sections of the people in Sri Lanka and also Malaysia in the long run.

“Our mission has already requested the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Malaysia and Censorship Board of the government of Malaysia to ensure that no such film is screened in this country against the people and government of Sri Lanka and to ensure smooth and peaceful coexistence of the peace loving and for the enhancement of warm and cordial bilateral relations between our two peoples.”

Kula defends organisers

DAP’s M Kulasegaran (left), who is Ipoh Barat MP, responded to the organisers’ call for lawyers when it became apparent that the “security personnel wanted admittance into the hall”. This is what Kulasegaran had to say. Consider this a firsthand account of a participant who was in the centre of the commotion.

 “The screening started at about 7.30pm. The organisers barged in asking if any lawyers can come out of the theatre area to speak to some ‘government agencies’ which wanted to stop the screening.

“I was asked and I went out to meet the ‘raiders’. I introduced myself and asked under what authority the officers have come. To my shock there were from, KDN (Home Ministry) filming department, the police, Immigration and some suspicious-looking characters.

“The presence of over 70 personnel shocked me. Why their interest and three departments for a major international movie. What great sin is being screened to warrant this raid?

“The officer immediately said he was from the KDN and had received a complaint that we were screening a movie that infringes the Film and Censorship Act. I immediately asked, could he produce the necessary documents for him to conduct the raid, but he said this was not necessary under the act.

“I asked who had filed the complaint, he said this could not be divulged. I retorted it was in the public domain that Sri Lanka and its local connections were the ones. He just smiled and refused to say any further.

“Thereafter, I reminded the officer if he was aware the film was screened in Parliament House earlier and he nodded his head. I asked, ‘Why you chaps did not raid Parliament’, he replied, how can they raid Parliament?

“I further retorted that the documentary was already available online. He declined to say anything. As the argument was proceeding, we invited the ‘raiders’ to go to the adjoining office to discuss this further. He agreed.

“At the adjoining office, a deal was struck. The screening could proceed uninterrupted and at the end, they would enter the theatre and take the soft copy of the video, etc. They would also check the identities of those present.

“I realise they had felt many foreigners, especially Sri Lankan Tamils, could be there, and if so, arrest them and deport them, thus satisfying the Sri Lankan authorities who think Sri Lankans were behind all this.”

Screening in Parliament

I asked Kulasegaran of the screening in Parliament, to which he replied, “The screening of the film ‘No Fire Zone’ has been a topic of discussion among NGOs for the last two plus week. We were fortunate that the Caucus for the Displaced People of Sri Lanka of the Malaysian Parliament went ahead and screened the video in Parliament House during the lunchtime.

“Over 15 MPs of all races attended and saw for themselves the atrocities of war crimes. The organisers were initially worried if the screening would be stopped. I told them in Parliament, they wouldn’t dare.”

Kulasegaran has been consistent on his stand on the issue of Sri Lanka and has been raising the issue in Parliament.

He said: “Last year, many MPs raised the failure of the government to vote in favour of the resolution to support UN on the violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, which noted with concern that an internal inquiry report in Sri Lanka did not adequately address ‘serious allegation’ of violations of international law.

“Malaysia’s failure to support the motion is unacceptable. We know the real reason is its business links with the Sri Lankan interest.”

After the screening, one young woman related, “The lights were switched on and we were told by the organisers that KDN and Immigration officers wanted to see our ICs. There was some uproar and people demanded to know why.

“The organisers asked us to cooperate and show them our ICs. Several people tried to question the officers, asking, ‘Why do we have to show you our ICs?’ No response. They would not tell us. Initially the officers wanted to take down details, like our full names and IC numbers, but we refused and in the end, we just flashed our ICs in front of them.”

Let me be very clear. I have no problem with the Sri Lankan government wanting to “censor” this film, even if for the ridiculous reason of ” good bilateral relations”, however what I object to is the fact that our security or public institutions that are supposed to safeguard our interest are being used as proxies (possibly) for foreign interest.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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