8 Aug 06
A Singapore filmmaker who was investigated by the police for making a documentary about an opposition politician has been given a warning rather than being prosecuted, police have said.
Martyn See’s documentary on Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, entitled ‘Singapore Rebel’, had sparked the investigation after the censors board classified it as a “party political film.”
Singapore’s Films Act prohibits the making and distribution of films containing partisan political references or comments.
The offence carries a penalty of up to two years in jail or a fine of up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (63,694 US).
Police have also confiscated the tapes of the documentary and the camera used to film it.
“Following a police report filed by the Board of Film Censors … police conducted a thorough investigation and has since presented its findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers,” the police said in a statement.
“In consultation with the Attorney-Generals Chambers, a warning has been issued to Mr. See on 7 August 2006 in lieu of prosecution for producing a party political film,” it said.
The 26-minute film showed Chee being arrested by the police for speaking without a permit and talking about his campaign for greater political freedoms in Singapore.
It was withdrawn for screening at an international film festival here last year, but has been shown at human rights festivals in the United States and New Zealand.
Singapore has often been criticised by human rights and media groups for maintaining strict political controls despite its rapid modernisation.
The Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance had said the See case highlighted “the harshness of Singaporean state practices and laws in stifling free expression.”
But the government says the strict laws are necessary to maintain law and order — a pillar of the country’s economic prosperity.