Say NO to proposed amendments to Section 23 and 34 of the Films Act
Introduction
Under the proposed amendments to Section 23 of the Films Act (1), officers from IMDA (Info-communications Media Development Authority) will NOT require a warrant to enter your house.

To enter your homes, the IMDA officer can even “break open any door or window leading to the premises.” (2)

They can confiscate any of your equipment such as your handphone, computer, video camera, storage devices, etc.

And finally, if you obstruct the IMDA officer in the performance of his or her duties, you can be punished with a fine of up $10,000 or 12 months jail.

(1) For a summary of the proposed amendments, see number 2.31 of https://www.imda.gov.sg/-/media/imda/files/inner/pcdg/consultations/consultation-paper/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act/films-act-public-consultation-4-dec-2017.pdf?la=en (Retrieved 13 December, 2017).

(2) See pg. 48 of https://www.imda.gov.sg/-/media/imda/files/inner/pcdg/consultations/consultation-paper/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act/annex--draft-films-act-amendment-bill.pdf?la=en (Retrieved 13 December, 2017).

The Petition
The proposed amendments to the Films Act (Section 23) confer far too much power to IMDA officers. They also fail to protect the rights of citizens, which is the one of the fundamental purposes of any legislation. Our four main points are these:

First, search and seizure warrants are essential safeguards against any potential abuse of power. The case for eliminating safeguards such as warrants can only be justified when there is a risk of imminent danger or physical injury. None of the offences covered under The Films Act poses such a risk. Therefore, if IMDA wants to enhance its investigation and enforcement powers, this must not be done at the expense of citizens to feel safe in their homes and secure in the rights of their property.

Second, the confiscation of equipment raises two important and often overlooked issues:

One, handphones, computers and storage devices contain confidential information unrelated to the alleged offence. These may be sensitive information which can put vulnerable people at risk in the event of a leak. How can IMDA guarantee that the privacy of such sensitive data is protected?

Two, equipment such as computers and video cameras are often used for work purposes. They may be quite costly. Professional video cameras for example, can cost up to the equivalent of half a year’s salary or more. If we then use the recent history of police investigations as a gauge of what is likely to happen, we find that investigations can last anything from six months to one year, which means that the owner is deprived of these equipment for that entire period. In such a case, confiscation becomes a severe punitive action that endangers the livelihood of citizens. Hence, not only is there an urgent need to scrutinize current police procedures surrounding the confiscation of property, there is also a need for legislation that protects the citizen from being unduly punished through such confiscation, especially when he or she has not yet been found guilty nor even charged.

Third, the extension of police powers to IMDA is part of a worrying trend that needs to be re-examined. As more and more public agencies assume the powers of police, citizens risk becoming terrorized by the very laws that purport to protect them.

Fourth, the public consultation has brought our attention to a shocking aspect of the existing Films Act. Under Section 34, in regard to so-called “obscene” and “party political” films, IMDA officers are already authorized to enter our homes and confiscate equipment without any warrant (1). We have already stressed the importance of warrants in paragraph two above. There are two further issues here. One, there is no public consensus on what is considered obscene or party political; their definitions can be highly subjective. More crucially, we lack any truly independent public institution that has the power to determine what is obscene or party political. Hence, there is an obvious conflict of interest when the power to decide what is obscene or party political is made not by a community-appointed institution, but by officials who are appointed only if ultimately approved by the single person of the Minister.

In conclusion, we as concerned individuals, express our objections to the proposed amendments to Section 23 of the Films Act. We also call for a repeal of Section 34 of the existing Films Act.

(1) https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/FA1981#pr34- (Retrieved 26 December, 2017).

Note:
My name is Jason Soo and I'm a filmmaker. This petition was started after discussions with some friends.

I will send the petition together with the list of names to Ms Lee Ee Jia (Director, Media Policy, IMDA). Except for matters to do with this petition, your personal info will not be used for any other purpose.

The public consultation closes on December 30. Act now before it is too late.

Lastly, the petition is not a substitute for your own submission, which is more important. The more people write in, the greater the likelihood of our voices being heard.

Other worrying aspects of the Films Act:
- the lack of a truly independent Films Appeal Committee
- the lack of transparency and accountability in the appeals process
- the criminalisation of "party-political films" [who decides what is party-political?]
- the dangers of self-censorship in the co-classification scheme (in particular, the potential $5000 penalty in the event of misclassification),
- etc.

Details for submissions can be found here: https://www.imda.gov.sg/regulations-licensing-and-consultations/consultations/consultation-papers/2017/public-consultation-on-proposed-amendments-to-the-films-act

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