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Did PAP film screening contravene Section 14 of Films Act?

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“MDA received this Young PAP film for classification earlier this year,” the Straits Times reported a Media Development Authority (MDA) spokesperson as having said. The MDA had also decided that the video was not a "party political film", which is illegal in Singapore.

The spokesperson was referring to the Young PAP video – “Re-ignite the Passion of Servant Leadership” - which has been in the news the last few days.

The video featured youth wing members of the PAP from various branches speaking about servant leadership, and sharing their views on what they hope the party would champion or do.

ST, 15 May 2014
ST, 15 May 2014

The news reported that the film “had been screened internally at a party convention last year” and “was uploaded to YouTube in late April.”

The 2013 PAP party convention was held over two days – on 7 and 8 December 2013. (See here)

While the MDA has “cleared” the film before it was posted online, the question raised in the MDA’s statement to the media on Wednesday is whether it was legal for the PAP to screen the film at the party convention last year, before it was even submitted to the MDA for approval.

The screening may have contravened Section 14 of the Films Act, which says:

“Every film in the possession of any person shall be submitted to the Board without any alteration or excision for the purpose of censorship at the owner’s risk and expense and at such time and place as the Board may appoint.”

Section 15 of the Act then states it is only AFTER the film has been submitted will any approval for exhibition of such films be granted.

(a) After the submission of a film for the purpose of censorship, the Board may — 

(b) approve the film for exhibition without alteration or excision;

(c) prohibit the exhibition of the film; or approve the film for exhibition with such alterations or excisions as it may require.

Evidently, the PAP film had not been approved by or submitted to the Board of Film Censors “for the purpose of censorship” before it was screened at the party convention in December.

The film was only submitted to the Board “earlier this year”, according to the MDA itself.

Also, the screening may be seen as a public event rather than a private one, since members of the media were also present, and the event widely reported in the media.

In 2008, the private screening of a film by activists at the Peninsular-Excelsior Hotel was interrupted by MDA officials who tried to stop the screening.

The 45-minute film, titled “One Nation Under Lee” was created by Mr Seelan Palay.

He said then:

“As the filmmakers have yet to submit the film for censoring, authorities from the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore attempted to seize the video and halt the screening of the film.”

According to a Singapore Democratic Party report:

“The gatecrashers, comprising of assistant director Mr Tan Chiu Kee, Mr Ahmad Kasbari and Ms Padmamuthu, cited the Films Act which states that ‘it is an offence to have in your possession or to exhibit or distribute any film without a valid certificate.’ This would make almost all Singaporeans violators of the Act.”

The organisers eventually handed the film over to the MDA officials.

You can watch the incident here and here.

Section 21 of the Films Act spells out the penalties for the "possession, exhibition or distribution of uncensored films."

The question one would thus ask of the MDA, with regards to the PAP video screened at its party convention apparently before it was submitted to the authorities for approval, is: did the screening contravene Section 14 of the Films Act?

And to the PAP: why did it screen the video at the convention apparently before it submitted it to the Board of Film Censors for approval?

In 2009, the PAP's planned screening of another film, "I am a young Singaporean", was withdrawn after the authorities failed to approve the film in time.

TODAY, 2009
TODAY, 2009