Are the changes to the Films Act necessary?

By December 28, 2017Current

TL;DR – Education might be better.

The Infocomm Media Development Agency (IMDA) is proposing amendments to the Films Act. Of all the amendments, the most contentious one must the one that enhances IMDA’s investigation and enforcement powers to “Enter and inspect, without warrant, any premises and examine any film or advertisement for a film found on the premises”.

Petitions against amendments

That has prompted petitions against that amendment.

Filmmaker Jason Soo, who started a petition, said that Section 23 of the proposed laws “confer far too much power to IMDA officers”. In the preface of the petition, Soo pointed out that IMDA officers are not trained and “possess no actual experience in managing and de-escalating what could be highly charged and confrontation situations”. That petition has been signed by nearly 400 people, many of whom are from the arts community.

Separately, a group of filmmakers signed a position paper requesting IMDA to reconsider the proposed amendments to the Films Act. These filmmakers include prominent directors Anthony Chen, Jack Neo, Boo Junfeng, Kirsten Tan, K. Rajagopal, Royston Tan, Kelvin Tong and Tan Pin Pin. They were concerned that the changes “will erode public confidence in the processes that regulate access to films in Singapore”.

Singaporean film-makers (from left) Anthony Chen, Jack Neo, Boo Junfeng and Kirsten Tan were among the 50 who have signed a position paper calling on the authorities to reconsider proposed amendments to the Films Act (via)

Specifically, like the petition, the position paper took issues with the enhanced investigation and enforcement powers given to classification and licensing officers. The paper said:

“Such sweeping and invasive powers should only be granted to the police, the custodians of law and order of the country. It is not clear that classification or licensing officers have the necessary law enforcement operational background to wield such powers.”

In addition to that, the position paper also took issue with another amendment that gives the minister “sole discretion” – after consulting an independent panel – over the outcome of appeals for films that have been refused classification for undermining national security. Instead of this change, the filmmakers are asking to retain the current framework where filmmakers  appeal to the Films Appeal Committee (FAC), which is made up of citizens.

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Do we really need those amendments?

Personally, I agree with both the petition and the position paper. The proposed amendments come across as draconian. Yes, even for Singapore.

Is it really necessary for IMDA officers to be given such powers? Do they really need to be allowed to kick down doors and barge into people’s homes? These are films we are talking about, not drugs. Are they that worried that people who own some porn will rush to delete them and jump out windows to escape?

Also, even if the IMDA officers really think that the scourge of political and obscene films must be viciously stamped out, can they actually effectively do so? In this day and age of the connectivity, where films are easily available over the Internet, can any amount of legislation and enforcement really stop all Singaporeans from seeing “unlawful” films?

Surely not?

Are there better ways

I wonder if education and some trust in fellow Singaporeans that we know better and can be discerning of what we watch might be more useful.


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Author CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.

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