MDA questions Seelan over Francis Seow video

Singapore Democrats

Filmmaker and human rights campaigner Mr Seelan Palay has submitted a video to the Media Development Authority (MDA) for rating as required under the law. The video is an interview of Singapore’s former solicitor-general (SG) Mr Francis Seow.

Mr Seelan had submitted the film last year. The agency now wants to know the purpose of Mr Seelan producing the film and whether the video is accurate. Mr Seelan’s replies are reproduced below.

Mr Seow was also the president of the Law Society of Singapore (LSS) in the mid-1980s. As president, Mr Seow indicated that the Society would play a greater role in keeping watch on the laws the PAP passed.

Of particular concern was the amendment of the Newspaper Printing and Presses Act which allowed the Government even greater control of the media in Singapore.

This enraged Mr Lee Kuan Yew who was then prime minister.

Mr Seow was subsequently arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act in 1987 together with those accused of being part of a Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the Government. He was removed as the LSS’s president.

After his release from detention and after standing as a candidate in the 1988 general elections, Mr Seow left for the US. This video interview was recorded in the US where he now lives.

In the interview the former SG spoke on a wide range of issues including the inner workings of the PAP Government and Madam Kwa Geok Choo’s (Mrs Lee Kuan Yew) role.

Below are Mr Seelan’s responses to the MDA’s queries:

Seelan Palay

What is your purpose in producing the Film?

Why is the MDA asking me this question? I am required to submit this video for rating which is exactly what I am doing. My purpose of producing this film has nothing to do with the rating process. But if you must know, I would like Singaporeans to hear what Mr Francis Seow has to say about our national affairs.

You have stated in your submission that the Film is a “documentary…and composed wholly of an accurate account depicting actual events, persons … or situations…” What are your reasons and premises for indicating that the Film is such a documentary? Could you explain how the Film is “an accurate account”?

Can you explain which part of the film is not an accurate account and how it is not accurate? I will respond accordingly.

Your submission also states that the Film is for “Private film screening”. Please elaborate on what you mean and intend by “Private film screening”, and who the intended target audience is.

Private film screening is where I invite my friends to come to my place and watch the film.

Your submission further states the Film will be for “distribution”. Please elaborate on the medium and platform for such distribution.

I would like to make copies of the film and pass it to my friends for their own viewing.

Have you informed the interviewee of your intention to have the Film privately screened and distributed in Singapore?

What has my communication with Mr Seow anything to do the rating of the film?

In step with a Producer’s responsibility, have you exercised editorial oversight in parts of the interview which, on the face of it, can be regarded as defamatory?

You are the MDA, not the Supreme Court. Your job is to give me a rating, not decide on whether the content is defamatory or not.

In step with a Producer’s responsibility, have you exercised editorial oversight and ascertained accuracy with regard to what was said by the interviewee about being driven out of the country?

If there is any inaccuracy, I am sure the relevant authorities will clarify it. You are not the proper authority to determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of Mr Francis Seow’s claims because you do not know the facts. You do not have to be the gatekeeper of what the public watches or hears. Let Singaporeans watch and hear both sides of the story.

The film ends with the Producer’s statement that, “Francis T. Seow currently lives in exile in the United States …”. Have you ascertained if this is factually correct?

I am amenable to removing this sentence.

Overall, have you exercised editorial oversight to enable viewers to develop an informed understanding?

The answer is yes. Perhaps you should more appropriately pose this question to Channel News Asia, the Straits Times, The New Paper, and all other local mainstream media outlets.

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