India denies public exhibition of film on life of Tamil journalist Shoba

India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which regulates the public exhibition of films in the country, declined to certify the film Porkalathil Oru Poo on May 27, 2015, citing the possibility that it could harm “friendly relations with foreign States,” the English-language daily The Hindu reported.

The CBFC certifies the public release of films or rejects their applications. A film is not certified if it is deemed to be against the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the state, according to the CBFC‘s website.

Porkalathil Oru Poo is based on the life of Sri Lankan journalist and TV news presenter Shoba, who also reported under the name Isaipriya or Isaippiriya. The Tamil journalist was shot dead in May 2009, during the final phases of the civil war, and her body appeared to have been raped, according to news reports at the time. In 2011, the U.K.’s Channel 4 screened amateur footage of her body, which suggested that she was shot and killed during the Sri Lankan government’s final military surge in the northeast.

The film’s director, K. Ganeshan, criticized the CBFC’s decision and cited a unanimous decision reached by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013, which called on the state assembly to “stop treating Sri Lanka as a friendly country.”

“What if Sri Lanka is a friendly state?” Ganeshan told The Hindu. “Are we not allowed to criticize even when its armed forces have committed blatant human rights abuses?”

Porkalathil Oru Poo joins a list of films banned in India for their coverage of the Sri Lankan civil war. In 2014, the CBFC declined to certify the Channel 4 documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, citing its potential to strain diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka.

S. Ve. Shekar, regional chairman of the CBFC, defended the decision to deny certification for Ganeshan’s film. “We have only followed the rule book,” he told The Hindu. “We cannot give a certification based on our whims and fancies.”