A Grammy-winning musician and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker are among about 100 artists, journalists, and lawyers from around the world who have written to the Malaysian government to call for charges against activist Lena Hendry to be dropped.
Lena faces the charge of screening the film ‘No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ in July 2013, without approval from the censorship board. Her trial is tomorrow.
If found guilty, the Pusat Komas representative could face up to three years’ jail and RM30,000 fine, or both, under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002.
She had also challenged the constitutionality of Section 6(1)(b) and Section 6(2)(a) of the Act in Federal Court but lost the case on Sept 14 this year.
Among those who signed the letter include Grammy Award-winner Angelique Kidjo, British actor Greg Wise, and Academy Award winning director Orlando von Einsiedel.
The group condemned the use of the Act against Lena, describing it as “disturbing” and “unacceptable”, as well as in danger of bringing Malaysia into international disrepute.
“It (the law) is so all-encompassing that technically, Malaysian citizens could go to jail if they don’t submit their wedding video or family holiday video to the board.
“But the reality is that the law is being used for political censorship. And that is what appears to lie behind the arrest of Lena,” they said.
It was noted that ‘No Fire Zone’ has been internationally acknowledged as playing a key role in telling the world about the war crimes committed at the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Delegates to the UN Human Rights Council had also launched a major inquiry into the events which saw tens of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians slaughtered in the space of a few weeks – mostly by government shelling.
The Sri Lankan government which ordered that shelling – and which tried to stop this screening – has now been replaced by popular vote of the Sri Lankan people, the group said.
“That is why we, the undersigned, are today calling for all charges against Lena Hendry to be dropped immediately and for the government of Malaysia to repeal this unacceptable law before it is used again to stifle free speech,” they stressed.
Their open letter was addressed to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and Attorney-General Apandi Ali.