Press Statement on the banning of “Apa Khabar Orang Kampung”

Artis Pro Activ (APA) unreservedly condemns the Malaysian Film Censorship Unit’s decision to ban director Amir Muhammad’s documentary film Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (Village People Road Show) which documents the lives of former Malay Muslim Communist Party Malaya members.

The film was submitted to the Censorship Unit on January 18th 2007 and a decision made on February 12th. In a letter to Amir the Unit gives seven reasons for the banning of the film. Among the reasons given were that the film put forth the perspective that the Communist struggle was a just one, that the Malaysian government was unjust in not acknowledging the Communist struggle, the film was critical of the Malaysian government and it compares the Communists to early Malay heroes.

This ban contravenes Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression. In any democracy the right to a different point of view is fundamental. A country cannot call itself a democracy and demand that all its citizens share a singular, official point of view. The Malaysian government must begin to accept that Malaysian citizens have differing views on many things and they have the right to voice those views. It is through healthy debate that we grow as a nation. That if 50 years after independence we cannot discuss our history then Malaysia is not an adult democracy but one still crawling out of the cradle. And it is decisions like this that keep us in the cradle.

Furthermore decisions like this will cripple the local film industry and stunt its growth. Local film-makers resort to unnecessarily damaging self-censorship as they constantly struggle to ensure that their films will be screened publicly. The Ministry of Information speaks of developing the local film industry, yet decisions such as this are a setback and a threat to a fledging film industry.

APA calls upon the government to lift the ban on Apa Khabar Orang Kampung and its prequel Lelaki Komunis Terakhir. This government came to power on the slogan of openness and transparency. We ask you to honour this promise.

APA believes strongly that freedom of expression, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is the cornerstone of every civil, progressive and democratic society. APA also believes that reasoned judgment, maturity, and foresight should be used when applying this freedom. We believe that Malaysians have the right to make choices about what they want to see or read.

APA is a non-political group of people from the arts community, which was established in 1998. We believe that the arts community needs to come together to play a more pro-active role in developing a more open society for our country.

Prepared by,

Fahmi Fadzil, Director, Artis Pro Activ
Anne James, Director, Artis Pro Activ

First Published: 22.02.2007 on Kakiseni

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