The Films (Amendment) Bill was read the first time in Parliament on 22 January. The Bill is found here. No huge surprises, since the Government had made its intentions clear in its response to AIMS.
However one change which political parties should take note of is the replacement of Section 2, subsection (f), which now permits:
(f) a film without animation and dramatic elements —
(i) composed wholly of a political party’s manifesto or declaration of policies or ideology on the basis of which candidates authorised by the political party to stand will seek to be elected at a parliamentary election; and
(ii) made by or on behalf of that political party;
I think this is a step forward, but still unnecessarily restrictive. Does it mean that films which are simply statements from political figures, but are not stated in their manifesto and are not their official election platform will still remain banned? I sure hope not!
A new Section 4A introduces a new Advisory Committee to “provide advice to the Board (of Film Censors)” regarding political films. However, Section 4A(2) immediately overrides the power of the this committee by stating “the Board may consult the relevant advisory committee…but…shall not be bound by such consultation.”
Another point, which has been highlighted by other bloggers, is Section 2, subsection (d), which states that the following is now allowed:
d) a film designed to provide a record of an event or occasion that is held in accordance with the law for those who took part in the event or occasion or are connected with those who did so.
Alex Au has pointed out that this is another of those “Chee Soon Juan laws” — laws which were specifically enacted to counter the activities of Dr Chee Soon Juan and his followers. (In fact, Section 33, the original law which bans political films, was enacted soon after Dr Chee made a video promoting his party some years back.)
While it would be illegal for filmmakers to film an illegal protest, it would not be an offence for Mediacorp to do the same, since Section 2, subsection (a) allows “a film which is made solely for the purpose of reporting of news by a broadcasting service licensed under any written law”.
But this raises another point: Are the police, then, allowed to film illegal protests and submit it as evidence in court? I don’t see anything that permits that. Unless, of course, there are other laws (or lack thereof) which give the police the power to do anything they deem necessary to perform their work.
I hope there will be more debate on this law during its second reading in Parliament.