Activist to stand trial after apex court throws out challenge to Film Censorship Act provision

Lena was charged in September 2013 with screening the documentary, ‘No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ on July 3, 2013, at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall without approval from the Film Censorship Board. — AFP file pic
Lena was charged in September 2013 with screening the documentary, ‘No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ on July 3, 2013, at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall without approval from the Film Censorship Board. — AFP file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — The Federal Court today sent a human rights activist back to the lower court to stand trial, after it dismissed a constitutional challenge to a provision under the Film Censorship Act 2012.

The apex court responded in the negative when asked if Section 6(1)(b) of the Act — which prohibits any screening or circulation of material not approved by the Film Censorship Board — went against provisions for freedom of expression and speech outlined in the Federal Constitution.

Pusat Komas programme coordinator Lena Hendry. — File pic
Pusat Komas programme coordinator Lena Hendry. — File pic

The decision means that Pusat Komas programme coordinator Lena Hendry will have to go back to the Magistrate’s court to stand trial for screening a documentary on Sri Lanka’s civil war without government approval.

“We are disappointed but we will continue to push boundaries for freedom of expression in Malaysia,” Lena’s counsel, New Sin Yew, told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

“This is the first ever case that has ever gone all the way up,” New said, adding that no date has been set for his client’s case before the Magistrate’s court.

Lena was charged in September 2013 with screening the documentary, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” on July 3, 2013, at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall without approval from the Film Censorship Board.

She and her legal team had posed the question of whether Section 6 of the Act, under which she is being charged, went against Article 10 read with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which guarantee the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act states that no person shall “circulate, exhibit, distribute, display, manufacture, produce, sell, or hire any film or film publicity material” without the Board’s prior approval.

Anyone found guilty under the provision faces either a fine of up to RM30,000, not more than three years behind bars, or both.

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