Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Council recommends lifting ban on party political films in phases

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 02 December 2008 1901 hrs

SINGAPORE: A committee looking into new media has recommended that Section 33 of the Films Act that prohibits the making and distributing of party political films be repealed but in phases.

It's one of the key recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS).

The council also suggests that the scope of law be narrowed to target only those films that "intentionally mislead viewers" and that an independent panel be appointed to decide on this.

However, questions remain.

Choo Zheng Xi, editor, The Online Citizen, said: "It's very difficult to say if for example, I do cutaway shots of opposition party rallies, whether that is going to be slanted and misleading. Or, if I take snapshots of unflattering comments that the PAP ministers make, whether that is going to be a slanted and misleading film."

Choo, one of the Bloggers13 group consulted by the council, is in favour of an immediate repeal.

Cheong Yip Seng, chairman of AIMS, said: "Deciding on whether films are acceptable or not, it's not going to be easy. I think it's possible many of the films submitted will likely fall into the grey area. That is why we emphasise that it is important for the panel to have public credibility."

Mr Cheong acknowledges films deemed unacceptable by the panel can still pop up on YouTube, a free video-sharing platform.

He added: "I think it is reasonable to expect that film to appear on YouTube and when that happens, the public will judge whether the panel had made the right or wrong decision."

But both parties agree that the ban needs to go.

Choo continued: "One word they used is decriminalising the making of political films which I think is very healthy because we need to move away from the mindset that making these films and talking about politics online through a video medium is criminal."

One of the issues when it comes to political discussions online is that there are a lot of grey areas. Thus, AIMS report aims to strike a balance between a free-for-all and trying to give greater clarity on what the out-of-bounds or OB markers are.

AIMS also made three other major recommendations.

One of them is for the government to further actively engage citizens online and give civil servants space to voice their personal opinions.

The second recommendation is to protect minors by having a dedicated agency to implement cyber safety and an annual fund for such efforts.

And the third suggestion is to have laws to protect websites hosting content that may turn out defamatory.

The government said it will study the recommendations carefully and announce its position in about one and a half months' time. -CNA/vm

KR: Here's a thought - if the local government does its job well and that becomes apparent and transparent to the masses or the grassroot, clearly then, any sort of defamation from any group would as obvious be seen as that. But if, on the other hand, it slips up or fumble on certain issues or matter then shouldn't public opinion be taken into consideration?

Shouldn't the masses and the people
(whom the government represent - democratically) be the check and balance for the government? Or is this form of relationship a remote concept in this little red dot?

Are the Singapore online savvy viewers so gullible that they could be easily "mislead" by certain political media? On the contrary, most Singaporeans are savvy enough to give critical opinions or feedbacks.

So thanks for putting your trust in the people ....

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