By Rachel Zeng
“Pappy Washing Powder”, a video released online by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on 5 August 2015, has been classified as a party political film by the Media Development Authority (MDA) on 17 August 2015, and therefore prohibited under the Films Act.
However, the MDA had decided not to take further actions against the party as they consider this incident the first that concerns a party political film, citing the reason that parties might not be fully aware of the requirements under the Act.
In addition, they have also issued an advisory to political parties on 17 August 2015, reminding them to abide by the Films Act, and to “ensure that political debate in Singapore is conducted in a responsible and dignified manner, and not by using the film medium to sensationalise serious issues in a biased or emotional manner”.
The Films Act defines any film which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore, or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore.
Section 2(2) elaborates that a film is directed towards a political end if it contains in whole or in part, any matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore and references to or comments on any political matter which are either partisan or biased, including “the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government”.
According to Section 33 of the Act, making, showing, importing and distributing any party political film is prohibited unless it fulfils certain criteria which is elaborated under Section 2(3).
A quick check on People’s Action Party’s (PAP) YouTube account, and found a total of twenty-nine films with a variety of content ranging from the introduction of their potential candidates to videos about the party’s history.
Although it is clear that the Films Act allows for films made on behalf of the candidates, the question remains whether party sponsored videos about their potential candidates, especially those that are launched close to the election season, hold any political end and if so, shouldn’t they be prohibited as well?