Keep up the good work, MDA

Jacob George

“Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter – An African proverb”

Martyn See, the maker of the documentary “Singapore Rebel”, was interviewed by the police on 16 May 2005.

What struck me, among other things, were the questions that were put to him at the interview. Like I said in my earlier post, it’s not as if the guy made a training video for Al-Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiya!! It’s really ridiculous!

The other thing is the fact that the Media Development Authority, or MDA, were the ones who made the allegation that See had made a “party political film” under the Films Act. They started the ball rolling for this investigation. MDA’s website says “The raison d’etre of the MDA is to develop Singapore into a vibrant global city so as to foster a creative economy and connected society.” Boy, they seem to be doing a very good job at it!

While they are at it, why not bring allegations against Channel NewsAsia’s (CNA) Up Close as well. The 5 television episodes that make-up this programme was a behind-the-scenes look at 6 ruling party Ministers in the cabinet. The final episode was a dialogue with the Prime Minister. If you look at it, these 5 episodes fit the criteria of a “party political film”. Well, in this case it was a party political tv series!

Up Close (in some quarters it’s called Up Yours!), according to the Films Act, can be construed as “an advertisement made by or on behalf of any 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.” In this case, the political party is the ruling Peoples’ Action Party (PAP).

The Films Act goes on to state that “For the purposes of this Act, a film is directed towards a political end in Singapore if the film

(a) contains wholly or partly any matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore; or

(b) contains wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter, including but not limited to any of the following:

(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.”

Immediately after this, CNA seems to have a way out, when the Act states that “For the avoidance of doubt, any film which is made solely for the purpose of reporting of current events..” is “not a party political film”.

But one has to look at all of the above in the current context, in which, the ruling party exerts total control over the local media. Which in turn has produced a very biased local media.

MDA has to be “congratulated” for doing it’s job of promoting locally-made films, in this case “Singapore Rebel”. “Singapore Rebel” has received international media attention, when MDA started the ball rolling, by bringing allegations against the documentary. That led to the documentary being pulled out of the Singapore International Film Festival.

Majority of Singaporeans have missed out on watching two films of importance. Three years ago, it was a short film about J.B Jeyaretnam, A Vision of Persistence. It suffered the same fate as “Singapore Rebel”. They are a part of Singapore history that should be allowed to be seen by Singaporeans in Singapore.

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