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Speech Acts - Censorship and Documentary Filmmaking in Singapore
Feature by: Vinita Ramani

[1] Singapore statutes online can be found in their entirety at and the change to the Film Act regarding films with political content was first made in 1998. See

[2] Singapore Rebel has been preceded by a 2001/2002 short film called A Vision of Persistence made about opposition politician J B Jeyaratnam, by three Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturers in Singapore. Royston Tan’s sardonic 2004 musical about censorship in Singapore called Cut also ironically touched sensitive turf with the Board of Film Censors, though it was eventually screed at SIFF 2004.

[3] Bach, K: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

[4] In some cases, it violates our cultural and religious identity as well as national stability. This was the argument put forward most recently in Singapore cases involving three Chinese bloggers who wrote racist invective about Malay Muslims online and were charged under the Sedition Act. More details can be found at and

[5] Butler, J: her own summation of these ideas can be found at


[7] This broad definition of an objectionable “party-political” film would prohibit many other films screened by national broadcasters which touch on political matters, save for Section 3 of the Act which pre-empts any such accusation. Section 3 states that a film which is made “solely” for the purpose of “reporting of current events” or “informing or educating persons on the procedures and polling times for any election or national referendum in Singapore is not a party political film.” A police report was filed in this regard by Yap Keng Ho, accusing Mediacorp of making two party political films: Up Close and Success Stories, 2002. See:

[8] ‘Police investigation of filmmaker intensifies; SEAPA urges authorities to end probe and repeal Films Act’. Article at the link below:

[9] See has made a new documentary called Zahari’s 17 Years, about left-wing journalist Said Zahari, who was “arrested in 1963 for allegedly being a communist”. See ‘Rebel See’s New Venture’, TODAY newspaper, January 6, 2006

[10] There has been extensive writing on the events from March 2005 to the present in See’s blog at
See also Jacob George’s blog:

[11] Time magazine interview with Lee Kuan Yew, December 15, 2005 issue. The whole interview can be found online at:

[12] Go to:

[13] Discussions about civil society in Singapore are plentiful. For a good summation of the key arguments written in a forum by Chng Nai Rui, see:

[14} Singapore has been ranked 140th out of 167 countries for press freedom by NGO Reporters Without Borders and has also faired just as poorly in its treatment of domestic workers according to Human Rights Watch. For Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s opinions on press freedom, see
For the Human Rights Watch report see:

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