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Letter of objection to proposed amendments of Film Act: Draconian and outrageous to waive need of warrant to enter and search premises

Below is a letter written by a member of the public to the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) about the proposed amendments to the Film Act and cc to The Online Citizen.

Dear Ms Lee Ee Jia:

I am registering my objection to certain new amendments to the films act, in relation to your public consultation request:

https://www.imda.gov.sg/regulations-licensing-and-consultations/consultations/consultation-papers/2017/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act

As outlined in your attached proposed changes (https://www.imda.gov.sg/-/media/imda/files/inner/pcdg/consultations/consultation-paper/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act/annex--draft-films-act-amendment-bill.pdf?la=en), I am objecting to Clause 23A, page 45.

Specifically, the new amendments do not require police officers, or a classification officers or licensing officers to possess a warrant to enter and search premises on mere suspicion of any breach of the Act.

This is unacceptable. Public servants cannot enter private premises unless there is sufficient proof and authorisation to do so. That is, there must be a warrant. To try bypassing this requirement is draconian and outrageous.

There is no need for further elaboration. This amendment cannot pass.

I am certain that other members of the arts and media community will be chiming in, and we will spread awareness of this issue to the best of our capabilities.

Yours, O. Tan

For those who wish to express their views on the proposed amendments on the Film Act, can write a letter to [email protected]addressed to Ms Lee Ee Jia, Director (Policy)


Powers of entry, search, etc., for enforcement purpose

23A.—(1) A police officer, or a classification officer or licensing officer, may do all or any of the following for an 25 enforcement purpose:

(a) in relation to any premises (whether or not specified in a licence or the subject of a class licence) —

(i) to enter and search, without warrant, the premises, and to search any equipment, vehicle or other thing 30 at the premises;
(ii) to photograph or film, or make audio or video recordings or make sketches of, any part of the premises or anything at the premises;
(iii) to detain any individual found within those premises until the search of the premises is complete;
(iv) to seize any film, advertisement for a film, 5 equipment or material, if the officer knows or has reason to suspect that the film, advertisement, equipment or material is evidence of an offence under this Act or any of its subsidiary legislation;
(v) to inspect and make copies of, or take extracts 10 from, (without fee or reward) any document kept at the premises; or
(vi) to take any document or any other thing at the premises, including asking any individual who is able to operate any equipment at the premises to do so for the purpose of enabling the police officer, classification officer or licensing officer (as the case may be) to ascertain whether the equipment, or a disk, tape or other storage device that can be used or associated with the equipment, contains information that is relevant;

(b) to require any person in Singapore whom the police officer, classification officer or licensing officer (as the case may be) has reason to believe to be acquainted with any facts or circumstances relevant to the carrying out of the provisions of this Act to attend before the officer —

(i) to answer a question to the best of that person’s knowledge, information and belief, immediately or at such place and time specified in writing; or
(ii) to take reasonable steps to provide information or produce a document, immediately or at such place and time specified in writing, whether before or after that person or anyone else is charged with an offence in connection with the matter, and whether or not that person is to be called as a witness in any inquiry, trial or other proceeding in connection with the matter.

(2) The power to require a person to provide information or produce a document under subsection (1)(b) includes the power —

(a) to require that person, or any person who is or was an officer or employee of that person, to provide an explanation of the document or information;
(b) if the document or information is not furnished, to require that person to state, to the best of the person’s knowledge and belief, where it is; and
(c) if the information is recorded otherwise than in legible form, to require the information to be made available to the police officer, classification officer or licensing officer, as the case may be, in legible form.

(3) Any person required to provide information or produce a document under subsection (1)(b) is bound to state truly what the person knows o
f the facts and circumstances concerning matters under this Act or any of its subsidiary legislation, except that the person need not say anything that might expose that person to a criminal charge or punishment.

(4) A statement made by any person asked under subsection (1)(b) must —

(a) be reduced to writing;
(b) be read over to the person;
(c) if the person does not understand English, be interpreted for the person in a language that the person understands; and
(d) after correction, if necessary, be signed by that person.

(5) If entry to any premises mentioned in subsection (1) cannot be obtained, a police officer, classification officer or licensing officer may, where the officer has reasonable cause to believe that evidence of the commission of an offence under this Act can be found on those premises — (a) after declaring his office and after producing his identification card on demand being made; and (b) with such force as is necessary to obtain entry, break open any door or window leading to the premises, or remove by force any obstruction to such entry or search.

(6) If any person fails to comply with a written notice issued to the person under subsection (1)(b), the police officer, classification officer or licensing officer concerned may report the failure to a Magistrate who may then, in the Magistrate’s discretion, issue a warrant ordering that person to comply with the written notice.

(7) Where any film, advertisement for a film, equipment or material has been seized under subsection (1)(a)(iv) (called in this section the seized item) — (a) the police officer, classification officer or licensing officer who seized the seized item must immediately give notice in writing of the seizure to the person from whom the item was seized, if the name and address of that person are known; and (b) in the absence of any claim under subsection (8) or pending the determination of any such claim, the seized item may be kept or stored in the premises or conveyance where it was seized or may, at the direction of a police officer, classification officer or licensing officer, be removed to any other place to be kept or stored at.

(8) Any person claiming a seized item may, within 48 hours after the seizure, complain about it to a Magistrate, who may determine the matter as follows: (a) by confirming or disallowing the seizure in whole or part; 49 (b) by ordering that the seized item be restored to its owner, subject to such condition which the Magistrate may think fit to impose to ensure that the seized item is preserved for any purpose for which it may subsequently be required; (c) by ordering payment to be made to the owner of the seized item of such amount as the Magistrate considers will compensate the owner for any loss or depreciation resulting from the seizure.

(9) In this section, “enforcement purpose” means — (a) obtaining evidence of an offence under this Act or any of its subsidiary legislation where there is reasonable cause to believe that evidence of the commission of the offence can be found on those premises; or 15 (b) investigating any offence under this Act or any of its subsidiary legislation, or any contravention of or noncompliance with a provision of this Act or its subsidiary legislation.