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Political videos pudding ready for the eating

The following is an excerpt of an article posted on Yawning Bread

Pudding ripe for the eating?

As civil society and political activism slowly rev up, with different people following different impulses, at some point somebody is going to find himself working at cross-purposes to someone else. We may have reached that point.

Filmmaker Martyn See (right) had a letter published in the Straits Times, 9 December 2010. It asked a pertinent question that made entirely good sense from his point of view and his concerns. As I read it, however, I couldn’t help wondering if he might have single-handedly gummed up Singapore Democratic Party’s communication strategy:

In last Saturday’s report (‘The battle for eyeballs is on’), we learnt that political parties have been using the new media.

The article noted that since the ban on party political films was lifted last year, ‘parties are able to produce and disseminate videos so long as they are factual and objective’.

Indeed, some opposition parties have posted politically themed videos online, with the Singapore Democratic Party chalking up 47 videos on its YouTube channel so far. My own check on the People’s Action Party website reveals the ruling party has posted more than 30 videos.

But Section 14(1) of the Films Act states that ‘every film in the possession of any person shall be submitted to the Board (of Film Censors) without any alteration or excision for the purpose of censorship’.

Earlier this year, I had complied with the above by submitting my video recording of a speech by political detainee Dr Lim Hock Siew to the censors. The film is now gazetted as a prohibited film because the Minister deemed it to be ‘against public interests’. I was also told to remove the film from YouTube and from my blog, which I duly complied.

My other film, Zahari’s 17 Years (2006), an interview with political detainee Said Zahari, has remained banned.

Given the Government’s dim view of films and videos with political content, I would like to know what is the position of the relevant authorities with regard to the production and direct uploading of videos onto the Internet, particularly those of political parties.

See was pointing out the discrepancy between the treatment of his films and the way the government has turned a blind eye to parties uploading videos onto their websites.

Once published, the Media Development Authority (MDA) will be obliged to reply. It will be interesting to see what position they take.

On the one hand they can say that in See’s case, he himself submitted the films to the MDA, and so naturally, the MDA had to give him a decision. The political parties on the other hand took their own risk by uploading directly without first consulting the MDA. It’s not as if the MDA has allowed them to flout the law; it’s just that they chose to risk prosecution.

You can read the rest of the article here.