When there is not a ghost film making headlines by raking in a whopping billion baht at the box-office, movie news in this country is often about censorship, which stalks certain filmmakers like a serial killer. This week we have two such news items, both under-reported, and both concerning the larger issue of media freedom. Let's take a look.
The first sounds like good news, at least on paper. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), with the assistance of its Citizens' and Political Rights sub-committee, has released its findings on the ban of Shakespeare Tong Tai (Shakespeare Must Die), a Thai film that came under the murderous axe of the National Film and Video Board last year. In short, the NHRC found the ban "is an infringement on the freedom of opinion and expression by the filmmakers". To recount the particulars of the case, the censors banned the film on the grounds that it could disrupt national security (strange how some people think movies, and not state-sponsored ignorance, are a time-bomb) and could cause disunity among the people, especially through the film's reference to the events of Oct 6, 1976 - the "killer-chair" episode to be exact.
On this, the NHRC's opinion is precise: "The order to ban the whole film, that the important rationale [for the censors to ban it being the scene reminiscent] of the events of Oct 6, a historical event well-known to the general public; that to judge a film on a single scene, is an unjust act." The committee also goes further by suggesting that the Film Act of 2008 - which was passed at Shinkansen-like speed by the coup-appointed national assembly with a mind-boggling 40 votes - has serious problems, since it has the potential to "restrict the freedom of expression as enshrined by the constitution".
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