Andrew Loh

Senior Minister of State (Information, Communication and the Arts) Lui Tuck Yew defended the Government’s amendments to the Films Act stoutly. He even described the changes as “significant liberalisation and change, and it will widen the space for political discourse”.

But one wonders if Minister Lui was confused by one aspect of the change – that of a “blackout period” during electioneering. He cited this example to show that the government was not tightening its grip but in fact was loosening it, or liberalizing the rules.

Minister Lui said in Parliament:

Political parties and their election candidates will be able to use films allowed under the amended Films Act during an election period. This goes beyond the recommendation of AIMS, which had in fact recommended that there be a blackout period for party political films during an election. (Emphasis mine. Source.)

However, when The Online Citizen (TOC) reported in December 2008 that AIMs had indeed recommended such a limitation, AIMs wrote to TOC to clarify that it was, in fact, not recommending a “blackout period”.

AIMs said in its email:

In AIMS’ finalised recommendations from page 74, we had recommended that Section 33 of the Films Act be repealed in stages. There was no mention of any blackout period or any conditions attached to this ultimate goal of a total repeal.(See here.) 

In its clarification, AIMs explained that the initial recommendation of a “blackout period” was made in its consultation paper. In its final recommendations to the government, however, AIMs did not propose such a limitation but that it recommended that Section 33 of the Films Act be repealed in stages.

One therefore wonders if Minister Lui, in citing the example of the “blackout period” as an example of the government’s liberalization of the rules, was reading the wrong paper or was confused by the two. Did he read the consultation paper or the paper with the final recommendations?

Further to this, one wonders if the Minister had been properly apprised of the various feedback given to it before it went ahead and made the changes to the Films Act. One can’t go “beyond” what was not recommended. Right?

One thing is for sure, there is now a deeper reluctance, on the part of some who were canvassed for their views in the year-long feedback process handled by AIMs, to participate in any future ones. For it seems that not only is the government confused by what was recommended, it is also bent on bull-dozing new legislations through.

Indeed, feedback to the government has been dealt a severe blow – ironically, by the government itself. And that, perhaps, is a more serious consequence than what the changes to the Films Act would bring.


Picture from My Sketchbook.


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