Death penalty: Wrongful convictions and unfair sentencing in Malaysia

Source: Asian Correspondent

Lawyers Chong and former HAKAM President Abdul Rashid Ismail speaking on death penalty at @freedomfilmfest in Kuala Lumpur. Source: @AmnestyMy. Taken from Asian Correspondent.

WHILE the death penalty in Malaysia is an issue that divides the nation and continues to be a hot topic in parliament, there is a group of people whose voices never enter the debate. They are the silent victims of this colonial-era law and the ones that pay the ultimate price for the errors of others – the wrongfully convicted.

Splitting public opinion pretty much down the middle, the death penalty in Malaysia is a hangover from British rule and is still the mandatory punishment for murder, drug trafficking, treason, and waging war against the King.

Last year, Malaysia executed nine people – up from one the previous year – and handed down 36 death sentences. In its latest report on the issue, rights group Amnesty International ranked Malaysia tenth in the use of the death penalty among 23 countries where executions were recorded. Read more

Freedom Film Fest 2017 Launch

Taken from FreedomFilmFest Facebook event page

Taken from FreedomFilmFest Facebook event page

In conjunction with the launch of FreedomFilmFest 2017, we will be having the first preview of “Mengejar Keadilan:Indira Gandhi dan Dato’ Hj Ismail Yahya” by Norhayati Kaprawi and screening of the award winning film “Hooligan Sparrow” by Nanfu Wang.

For more information of this event, you can visit our website at freedomfilm.my/festival/fff2017

As this is a private event, kindly register to confirm your seat. You can register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/freedomfilmfest2017-launch-tickets-32679900462.

A reminder to please bring a hardcopy of your ticket as proof of registering.

Film censorship is being used to quell discourse in Malaysia — Zan Azlee

Source: Asian Correspondent

BY ZAN AZLEE

Activist Lena Hendry is seen outside the courtroom after the film censorship case decision in Kuala Lumpur February 21, 2017. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

Activist Lena Hendry is seen outside the courtroom after the film censorship case decision in Kuala Lumpur February 21, 2017. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

AS a documentary filmmaker, I regularly screen my films and also give talks and workshops, both locally and internationally. When I am out of the country, I always get asked the question of how local filmmakers deal with the strict censorship laws in Malaysia.

My first response is always to correct their question. The question shouldn’t be how we Malaysian filmmakers deal with strict censorship laws; it should be how we deal with vague, unclear and inconsistent censorship laws.

Take for example, Lena Hendry, who is a former employee of a Malaysian-based human rights non-governmental organisation called Pusat KOMAS. She was found guilty of screening the documentary ‘No Fire Zone: The killing fields of Sri Lanka’ without censorship approval in 2013.

Hendry was convicted under Section 6(1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act, 2002 on Feb 21, 2017 and could now face up to three years’ jail or a fine not exceeding RM30,000 (US$6,750). Sentencing has been set for 22nd March. Read more

CIJ slams conviction of activist for screening documentary

Source: FMT News

Activist Lena Hendry is seen outside the courtroom after the film censorship case decision in Kuala Lumpur February 21, 2017. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

Activist Lena Hendry is seen outside the courtroom after the film censorship case decision in Kuala Lumpur February 21, 2017. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR: The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is the latest to criticise the conviction of activist Lena Hendry for screening a documentary on the carnage that took place in the last months of the Sri Lankan civil war.

CIJ said in a statement that Hendry’s conviction was a serious violation of the fundamental human right to access information and of freedom of expression.

“This demonstrates the targeting of civil society by the Malaysian government for promoting discussions on human rights and expression of political viewpoints.

“Censorship laws – whether impacting journalism or creative content – are drawn up and implemented arbitrarily, and historically abused to silence critical content.”

The statement also criticised “the politically motivated pressure” that led to the crackdown on the screening and eventual persecution of Hendry.

‘Human Rights Watch stated in its statement in 2013 that prior to the screening by Pusat Komas, where Hendry was working as a programme coordinator, an official from the Sri Lankan embassy in Kuala Lumpur met with the venue management and tried to persuade them to stop the screening.

“The Sri Lanka embassy was said to have communicated with the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Censorship Board to urge the film not be shown.”

On Feb 21, the Magistrates’ Court convicted Hendry for screening the documentary, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, without the permission of the official film censors in July 2013. Read more

Freedom Film Fest 2016 Travelling Film Fest – Kuching

Freedom Film Festival to showcase Borneo stories
Source: The Borneo Post Online

KUCHING: The Freedom Film Festival is back in Kuching for its 13th edition after a successful run throughout Malaysia.

This year the Festival will be held at Lot 10 Boutique Hotel, Jalan Ban Hock, starting at 1.30pm tomorrow (Nov 5).

It will showcase four films including two outstanding submissions shot right here in Sarawak, entitled ‘Unlocking Bengoh’ and ‘The Borneo Case’.

Entry for students and senior citizens is free but the organiser will ask for a minimum donation of RM10 for entry to enable the festival to continue from year to year.

“We encourage all to come along and see for themselves the issues that these talented human rights filmmakers and advocates have uncovered under this year’s festival theme: ‘What Lies Beneath’,” Freedom Film Festival for Sarawak coordinator Ahmad Awang Ali said yesterday.

The Festival began in 2013 to create a vital platform for filmmakers and activists to showcase human rights films and advocate their causes to the Malaysian public.

The festival is run by Komas, an NGO established in 1993 to use creative and participative methodology in human rights education and to advocate for democracy and equality in modern Malaysia, in collaboration with other Sarawak NGOs.

“Film is a vital tool for story-telling and now, with the democratisation of film-making putting a video camera in the reach of so many members of the public, professional and amateur alike, the wealth of stories coming out in this medium is unprecedented.

“The festival provides a platform for ordinary Malaysians to share in the stories of our various communities, big and small, that uncover the human rights issues that are affecting us all today,” Ahmad said.

This year, the festival in Kuching will screen four submissions including two exclusively Sarawak stories.

In ‘Unlocking Bengoh’, viewers will be able to follow the stories of the villagers displaced by the Bengoh dam, just 30km from Kuching, and get a real glimpse of the true price of their relocation that they have had to endure in the name of development.

Then the Festival will be screening the feature-length documentary, ‘The Borneo Case’. This documentary, shot by a European film crew, was made over five years and tells the story of how our beloved rainforest has been stripped of its natural resources.

The filmmakers returned to Sarawak for the second time after a haunting film made in the 1990s on the plight of the Penan and the role that Bruno Manser played in their struggle against the loss of their ancestral lands.

In this gripping follow-up, they reveal how the billions of dollars of profit from the destruction of our forests have been siphoned out of Sarawak through international banks into huge overseas property portfolios.

This film premiered in Kuala Lumpur during the Freedom Film Festival there, attracting a large number of viewers, but will go on to an international release, being shown on television in 20 countries worldwide.

“This is your one and only chance to see these films here in Sarawak, highlighting issues from our own home state.

“Don’t miss out on the opportunity or on the chance to air your own views on each of the films or the issues that they raise,” Ahmad said.

For more information on the festival, the public are advised to visit http://freedomfilmfest.komas.org or call Ahmad Awang Ali at 010- 9756596.

Putrajaya told to drop activist’s criminal case on showing Sri Lanka documentary

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The Star reported that the High Court reversed yesterday the acquittal of Lena Hendry (centre), who was charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening ‘No Fire Zone’ without approval from the Censorship Board, and ordered her to enter her defence. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

The Star reported that the High Court reversed yesterday the acquittal of Lena Hendry (centre), who was charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening ‘No Fire Zone’ without approval from the Censorship Board, and ordered her to enter her defence. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 ― The Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Malaysia today to end the prosecution of activist Lena Hendry for illegally screening a documentary on war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The global human rights group said criminalising the screening of films without government approval imposed a “disproportionate” burden on the right to freedom of expression.

“Prosecuting Lena Hendry for the private showing of an award-winning film is all part of the Malaysia government’s intensified intimidation, harassment, and criminalisation of human rights defenders,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, said in a statement.

“The government should end Hendry’s three-year ordeal by dropping the charges and then promptly amending the Film Censorship Act so no other activists face prison just for showing a movie,” he added.

Local daily The Star reported that the High Court here reversed yesterday the acquittal of Hendry, who was charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening “No Fire Zone” without approval from the Censorship Board, and ordered her to enter her defence. Read more

Court reverses Hendry’s acquittal order

Source: The Star Online

Pic taken from FMT News

Lena Hendry (centre), after Magistrate Mohd Rehab Mohd Aris, had ruled to acquit her last March. Pic taken from FMT News

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has set aside an acquittal order for activist Lena Hendry and ordered her to enter her defence over the charge of screening a documentary that had not been approved by the Censorship Board.

In reversing the acquittal order Wednesday, Judicial Commissioner Mohamad Shariff Abu Samah found that there was a prima facie case against Hendry.

He ordered Hendry to enter her defence before the magistrate’s court where she had been charged.

Hendry’s lawyer Edmund Bon said they will fight the case till the end and believe they have a strong defence.

“It is a documentary talk about human rights violation in another country,” he told reporters later.

He said the DPP would write to the magistrate’s court to get a case management date.

“We will deal on the issue of her bail in the magistrate’s court,” he added.

Previously, Hendry’s bail was set at RM1,000 but it was returned to her after her acquittal in March.

Magistrate Mohd Rehan Mohd Aris had held that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against Hendry.

A total of eight prosecution witnesses were called to give evidence in the five-day trial. Read more

Delving deeper into social issues

Source: NST Online

SINCE 2003, the Freedom Film Festival (FFF) has provided a solid platform for social filmmakers and human rights activists to showcase their films and tell stories of lesser-known human rights issues.

Organised by non-governmental organisation Komas (Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat), the annual event this year is said to be its biggest edition yet. With the tagline, Dare To Document, the theme for this year’s FFF is What Lies Beneath.

The organisers will dig into the investigative side to highlight underlying human rights or environmental topics. Read more

Freedom Film Fest 2016

Source: http://freedomfilmfest.komas.org/

Theme: What Lies Beneath

The FreedomFilmFest 2016 theme “What Lies Beneath” reflects this international documentary film festival’s ongoing mission to cast the spotlight on underrepresented human rights and public interest issues through the powerful medium of film.

This year’s theme is a call for everyone to dig deeper into the many urgent issues that individuals, groups, society and humanity are facing today. It is also an invitation to filmmakers and activists to unearth stories that help us see beyond the surface to bring about more meaningful insight and the appropriate action.

What to expect at FreedomFilmFest 2016

FreedomFilmFest 2016 will kick off on Aug 20th to Aug 27, 2016 at PJ Live Arts in Jaya One, Selangor. The festival will subsequently make its way to major Malaysian cities – Penang, Ipoh, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu – followed by international screenings in Singapore, Melbourne and London.

Main event: Film festival screening and awards

FreedomFilmFest 2016 has curated a special series of over 30 local and international documentaries. These films are sure to be thought-provoking, insightful and prompt public discourse. The festival’s programme and content promises fresh perspectives that reveal the complexities and dynamics of the ongoing struggle for change, power inequalities, human resilience and hope.

The main event will culminate in an awards ceremony where four prizes, the Justin Louis trophies, will be given out for best Malaysian documentary; best Southeast Asian documentary; best international documentary; and best short film.

Masterclasses and discussions

Throughout the year, and in conjunction with the festival, FreedomFilmFest will be hosting renown local and international filmmakers and resource persons to conduct masterclasses on the various aspects of documentary and social filmmaking.

Travelling festival

A selection of films from FreedomFilmFest will travel to major Malaysian cities – Penang, Ipoh, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu – followed by international screenings in Singapore, Melbourne and London.

Open film grant competition

FreedomFilmFest is awarding grants of up to RM20,000 a year for Malaysian filmmakers and S$5,000 for Singaporean filmmakers to produce their documentaries. Two rounds of film grants will be given out this year.

Animated stories

FreedomFilmFest 2016 will debut ten three-minute-long animated personal stories done by people living in urban poor communities around Kuala Lumpur. This capacity-building and outreach programme is done in partnership with BFM Radio and Dasein Academy of Art.

Wayang Piknik

A selection of local and international films from FreedomFilmFest will be made available for free to individuals or groups who want to organise a small screenings in their community. Groups should ideally be around 20 people. Aside from films, organisers will be given a grant of RM200 to cover the cost of logistics and refreshments related to the picnic.

Capacity building for state and regional partners

There will be a series of planning meetings, workshops and screenings to build capacity of state and regional partners to organise effectively in their communities.

South East Asia Video Activist Network Meeting

A meeting will be organised to bring together filmmakers and festival representatives around the Southeast Asian region to discuss and plan regional collaborations around film and advocacy.

ASEAN Peoples’ Forum Festival

There will be a two-day ASEAN People’s Film Festival showcasing regional films in Dili, East Timor. This is part of the ASEAN People’s Forum, Southeast Asia’s largeat annual civil society event that hosts over 1,0000 delegates.

FreedomFilmFestival’s social impact

Over the past 12 years, FreedomFilmFest has produced over 40 local Malaysian human rights documentaries. Every year, the festival showcases over 30 outstanding international and local documentary films.

The festival travels to major cities nationwide as well to Singapore and other countries. It directly reaches out to 100,000 people annually. Core audiences include:

  • The film community: students, lecturers, professionals, academics, critics, enthusiasts
  • The activist and civil society community
  • Tertiary students and lecturers
  • Thematic target groups based on the issues and campaigns of FreedomFilmFest’s strategic partners
  • Lawmakers and implementors

For updates, please visit: http://freedomfilmfest.komas.org/

Nadira Ilana: Influencing the Malaysian narrative

Source: FMT News

The Sabah-born filmmaker is tired of the racially-blinkered cultural narrative Malaysians are used to hearing, something she says that she 'cannot let fly' anymore.

The Sabah-born filmmaker is tired of the racially-blinkered cultural narrative Malaysians are used to hearing, something she says that she ‘cannot let fly’ anymore.

PETALING JAYA: It’s the perennial East Malaysian struggle: the fight to be recognised as a people beyond the usual Petronas-advertisement platitudes. After all, most Malaysians are only familiar with the general narrative crafted and endorsed by the authorities, one that seems only to focus on the three major races, i.e. the Malays, Chinese and Indians.

All other races – those used to ticking the “lain-lain” (others) box in official forms – are mental footnotes, cultural caricatures of harvest festivals and… something or other about rice. They live in trees, right?

This state of the matter is particularly close to the heart of Sabahan filmmaker Nadira Ilana, and it is something that she, in her own words, “cannot let fly”.

Born of mixed heritage, as are most Sabahans, (“3/5th Dusun. I can sing karaoke well enough.”) Nadira brought in that attitude to her work directing her two latest short films in Ranau, Sabah.

“I really just wanted to understand what being Sabahan is about. I love Southeast Asian cinema, and I wanted to say something that felt very local,” Nadira told FMT in an exclusive interview recently. Read more