Filmmaker under investigation for banned documentary

May 10, 2005 ­ The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the police investigation of independent documentary filmmaker Martyn See who is being questioned under Singapore’s stringent Films Act.

On May 6, Assistant Superintendent of Police Chan Peng Khuang called See to inform him that police had received a copy of his film “Singapore Rebel” and had initiated an investigation, according to an account that See posted on his Web log yesterday. Chan did not elaborate on the reasons for the investigation, or any charges that might apply.

Police told international reporters that See is being investigated under the country’s Films Act, which bans “party political” films. Making or distributing such a film—which can be defined as anything containing partisan references or commentary—is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or two years in jail.”Singapore Rebel” chronicles the civil disobedience of opposition activist Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

See will report to the police on Monday, May 16, he told reporters.

In an effort to avoid an investigation, See withdrew his film from the Singapore International Film Festival after the Board of Film Censors told festival director Philip Cheah on March 11 that the film was objectionable under the Films Act. Cheah was “advised” to inform See to withdraw his film “whereby the matter would be dropped, failing which, the full extent of the law would apply,” wrote festival director Lesley Ho in an email to See. The film has not yet had a public screening anywhere in the world.

“Singapore authorities’ harassment of Martyn See and censorship of a film that merely documents political opposition is unacceptable,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge the government to call off this investigation and allow See to continue his work.”