Thursday, 3 October 2013

DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST MALAYSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER LENA HENDRY NO TO PRE-CENSORSHIP OR PRIOR APPROVAL FOR USAGE OF FILM/VIDEOS

Joint Press Statement : 
DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST MALAYSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER LENA HENDRY
NO TO PRE-CENSORSHIP OR PRIOR APPROVAL FOR USAGE OF FILM/VIDEOS
2 October 2013


We, the 112 undersigned groups, civil society groups and organizations are shocked that the Malaysian government, after the recent General Election has resorted to charging human rights defender Lena Hendry on 19 September 2013 for being involved in the screening of a documentary "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" at a human rights event in Kuala Lumpur on 9 July 2013.


Lena Hendry was charged for an offence under the Film Censorship Act 2002, in connection with the screening of a video which was not vetted and approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia. If convicted, she faces the sentence of a ‘…fine of not less than five thousand ringgit and not more than thirty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both…’ She is charged under Section 6 of the Act that makes it an offence to, amongst others, to produce, manufacture, have in one’s possession, circulate, distribute and display such film or film-publicity material which has not been approved by the Board. This may include video material ranging from family videos, videos of political and human rights material including recordings of forums and speeches, videos about citizen rights including the right to free and fair elections or worker rights, and even videos about rights violations in other countries including Palestine.

A ‘…videotape, diskette, laser disc, compact disc, hard disc and other record of a sequence of visual images, being a record capable of being used as a means of showing that sequence as a moving picture, whether or not accompanied by sound…”, is also included in the definition of ‘film’ as provided for in Section 3 of the Film Censorship Act. It is absurd that in Malaysia, the law requires one to get approval of the Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board for all such material.

The Act is also discriminatory as it does not apply, amongst others, to “...any film sponsored by the Federal Government or the Government of any State...”. The government does not need to obtain approval from the Censorship Board, but everyone else is expected to do so.

At present, the practice of getting approval from the Film Censorship Board usually applies to films screened in cinemas and cineplexes to a paying audience. Even when it comes to television, it is believed that there may be no pre-requirement for getting approval from the Censorship Board for all that is shown except for feature movies.

The charging of Lena Hendry in September 2013 by the Malaysia government is seen as an effort to limit access to information and alternative views particularly those highlighting human rights violations and alternative perspectives. This violates individual and civil society and public rights to information, freedom of expression and opinion.

If the screening and usage of such material incites a criminal act, or violates another person’s rights, there are existing laws to address this. There is no requirement for any prior government approval or ‘censorship’.

In Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 World Press Freedom Index, Malaysia has fallen to its lowest-ever position because of the decreasing access to information. Malaysia embarrassingly dropped 23 places, and now ranks 145 out of 179.

Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states clearly that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at national and international levels.”

Lena Hendry, has the right to ‘…freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms…’, and that should include the right to use films, documentaries and other video materials.

To advocate a policy or a law that says that film or video material must be pre-approved by the government before it can be used is in itself a violation of principles of human rights and the UN Human Rights Defender Declaration.

Therefore, we

a) Call on the Malaysian Government to immediately and unconditionally drop the criminal charges against Lena Hendry;

b) Call for the repeal of provisions in the Film Censorship Act 2002 that obligates persons to seek approval of the government vis-à-vis the Film Censorship Board before a film, videotape, diskette, laser disc, compact disc, hard disc and other record of a sequence of visual images can be used;

c) Call on the Malaysian government to recognize, promote and respect human rights, including those contained in the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration

Endorsed By:

  1. ALIRAN
  2. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Malaysia
  3. Angkatan Rakyat Muda (ARM), Malaysia
  4. Aksi  For Gender, Social And Ecological Justice, Indonesia
  5. ASEAN Youth Assembly
  6. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, law and Development (APWLD)
  7. Academy of Tamil Studies, Malaysia
  8. Boat People SOS
  9. Burma Partnership
  10. Cambodian Human Rights Association ( ADHOC )
  11. Campaign for a Life of Dignity for All (KAMP), Philippines
  12. Civil Right Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Malaysia 
  13. Center for Orang  Asli Concerns (COAC), Malaysia
  14. Centre of Education. Research and Development (CEDAR) Malaysia
  15. Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia 
  16. Child Development Initiative Malaysia
  17. Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), Malaysia
  18. Community Action Network, Malaysia
  19. Community Resource Centre
  20. Council of Temples Malaysia
  21. Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur
  22. Dignity International
  23. Empower Foundation, Thailand
  24. ENGAGE
  25. Federation of Indian Non-Governmental Organisations
  26. Foundation for Women, Thailand
  27. Friends of Burma, Chiang Mai
  28. Gabungan Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Masyarakat India Selangor
  29. Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas 
  30. Group of Concerned Citizens Malaysia
  31. Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK
  32. Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) Indonesia
  33. Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE) Malaysia
  34. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) , Malaysia
  35. JERIT, Malaysia
  36. Kelab Bangsar Utama, Malaysia
  37. Kesatuan Kebangsaan Pekerja Pekerja Perusahaan Alat Alat Pengangkutan Dan Sekutu(NUTEAIW)
  38. Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan Semenanjung Malaysia (KSIEWSSM)
  39. Kuala Lumpur Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
  40. Law and Society Trust, Colombo Sri Lanka
  41. LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysia
  42. MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
  43. Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates
  44. Malaysian Dravidian Association
  45. Malaysians for Beng Hock 
  46. Malaysian Hindu Youth Council
  47. Malaysian Indian Business Association
  48. Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association
  49. Malaysian Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
  50. Malaysian Indian Historical Association
  51. Malaysia Indian Progressive Educational Society
  52. Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation
  53. Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
  54. Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement
  55. Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association
  56. MAP Foundation, Thailand
  57. MARUAH, Singapore
  58. Migrant CARE
  59. MTUC(Malaysian Trade Union Congress) Pahang
  60. National Union of Bank Employees, Malaysia (NUBE)
  61. Nationwide Human Development And Research Centre Malaysia
  62. Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia ( NAMM)
  63. Network for Democracy and Development
  64. Parti Rakyat Malaysia(PRM)
  65. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  66. Pax Romana ICMICA
  67. Peace Institute of Cambodia 
  68. Peace Women Across the Globe Indonesia
  69. Peoples' Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand
  70. Peoples Service Organisation (PSO) , Malaysia
  71. PERGERAKAN Indonesia 
  72. Perkumpulan Tafena Tabua, Kupang - Indonesia
  73. Persahabatan Semparuthi Johore, Malaysia  
  74. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM KL & Selangor
  75. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) 
  76. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
  77. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS), Malaysia
  78. Projek Dialog, Malaysia
  79. SABM Melbourne, Australia
  80. Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee, Malaysia (人民之友工委会)
  81. SALT(School of Acting Justly Loving Tenderly and Treading Humbly), Malaysia
  82. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association 
  83. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  84. Selangor Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
  85. Semparuthi Iyakkam Malaysia
  86. Sisters In Islam, Malaysia
  87. SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia)
  88. Tenaganita, Malaysia
  89. The Asian Muslim Action Network (Aman) Indonesia
  90. The Association of Women Lawyers, Malaysia
  91. The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec, Canada
  92. VIVAT International-Indonesia
  93. WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
  94. Women's Centre for Change (WCC) Penang
  95. Women's Network for the Advancement and Peace, Thailand
  96. Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) Nepal
  97. World Tamil Federation – Malaysian Chapter
  98. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Malaysia
  99. Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, Thailand
  100. Yayasan LINTAS NUSA Batam - Indonesia
  101. Youth for Peace Cambodia
  102. Advocacy and Policy Institute (API), Cambodia
  103. Labour Behind the Lablel, United Kingdom
  104. ARTICLE 19
  105. Forum for Democracy in Burma 
  106. Bersihkan Malaysia Perth, Australia
  107. Women's Aid Organisation, Malaysia
  108. WAC, Phillipines
  109. Housing Rights Task Force, Cambodia.
  110. NLD LA Malaysia 
  111. Tourism Employees Association of Maldives" (TEAM)

  112. Additional Endorsements (Updated on 3 October 2013):
  113. CEREAL (Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral)

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