Of porn and politics

The Nanyang Chronicle, 17th Oct 2005

I don’t keep a stash of porn films in the corner of my cupboard, not because I’m scared my mum will find out but rather it would cost me a fine of up to $40, 000 or a prison term of up to two years, or even both, if I were convicted under Singapore law.

The law in Singapore acts to protect our values and promote virtue, in a manner that Aristotle argued should be its proper end.

Hence, pornography, widely regarded as detrimental to society, surely deserves such stiff laws to protect Singaporeans from falling prey to it.

Within the Films Act, where this law is found, is also an amendment from 1998 involving the making, distributing or exhibiting of party political films.

Any of the above might mean facing a fine of up to $100, 000 or a prison term of up to two years. Why ban political party films?

Are they more dangerous than pornography?

If pornography could corrupt our views on sex and demean women, what could politics do to warrant such a law?

Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, said in a recent interview with The Straits Times that a ban on party political films is necessary because of the emotional nature of the medium.

It “can arouse all kinds of reactions without an opportunity for the rebuttal to be made effectively.”

He added that while Singaporeans were intelligent and mature and could make their own judgments, there were some who were not discerning enough.

Indeed, party political films that border along the lines of propaganda have a powerful effect on its viewers.

During World War II, both the Allies and the Axis powers were guilty of portraying the other in a distorted fashion in the films, to win the hearts and minds of the people.

However, this amendment to the Films Act does not apply to films sponsored by the Government.

Think about the films we watched about Singapore’s struggle for independence.

The PAP is featured extensively as the ones who made Singapore successful.

While I do not dispute that, what I find interesting is that other political elements of Singapore’s history like David Marshall and his Labour Front and the Barisan Sosialis consistently get sidelined as footnotes of Singapore’s history.

Can such films be classified as “party political films”?

What is the amendment of the Films Act regarding party political films suppose to protect Singaporeans from?

“Singapore Rebel”, a 26-minute documentary about Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party, caught the attention of Singaporean filmmakers when it was suggested to have breached the Films Act.

It was pulled out from the Singapore International Films Festival after the Board of Film Censors informed its maker, Martyn See, that he could be jailed or fined if he were to screen it to the public as it was objectionable under this act.

Subsequently, he was called up by police for investigations and had the remaining copies of his film and his video camera confiscated.

The underlying question is what purpose does this law serve: to protect the citizens from politics or to protect politics from its citizens?

Other articles for The Nanyang Chronicle

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