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Friday, 11 April 2014 | MYT 5:25 PM

High Court rules against activist charged with screening controversial documentary

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here dismissed a human rights activist's bid to quash charges against her for screening a controversial documentary, ruling the charges imposed a reasonable restriction against free speech.

Justice Kamardin Hashim dismissed Pusat Komas programme coordinator Lena Hendry's application to set aside two charges against her under the Film Censorship Act 2002.

"The charges impose a limit against the freedom of speech and expression which is reasonable and proportional with the objectives and goals of the Act," said Justice Kamardin.

The court found that the restrictions were not in contradiction of Article 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution, which allows laws to impose on a person's freedom of speech in the interest of public security, order and morality.

Justice Kamardin disagreed with counsel Edmond Bon's submission that the provisions under the Act constituted an unreasonable restriction as they formed an unjustified "prior restraint" on the right of speech and expression by prohibiting films from being displayed or circulated without prior approval of the Censorship Board.

"The question is: how do we ascertain the contents of a film, if it is not screened before an independent body like the Censorship Board?

"Considering documentaries and even cartoons are not free of negative and pornographic content, the Act is thus reasonable," read Justice Kamardin, in his 36-page grounds, on Friday.

He also stated that the burden fell on the applicant (Hendry) to prove how her rights were violated by the charges.

"Failure to do so will put a full-stop to the application," said Justice Kamardin.

Programme coordinator for a human rights group Pusat Komas Lena Hendry claimed trial in a Magistrate's Court on Sept 19 to screening No Fire Zone, a documentary that had not been approved by the Censorship Board.

Under Section 6(1)(b) of Film Censorship Act, 2002, Hendry faces up to three years' prison or a fine not exceeding RM30,000, if convicted.

Hendry filed the application to the High Court registry to quash the charge on Nov 25, last year.

On July 3, 2013, three Pusat Komas activists - Anna Har, Arul Prakkash and Hendry - were arrested in a raid by the Home Ministry, when they attempted to screen the controversial documentary No Fire Zone at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, here.

The film No Fire Zone, directed by British national Callum Macrae, explores the oppression by the Sri Lankan government against Tamils in the island country.

Tags / Keywords: Courts , Pusat Komas , Federal Constitution , Free speech , No Fire Zone , Censorship Board

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