Target: Prime Minister of Malaysia Perdana Menteri
Goal: Ensure the release of civil rights activist who tried to show a film about civil war.
Lena Hendry a civil rights defender, could face up to three years in prison and a fine of RM30,000 (US$9,500) for screening a film about Sri Lanka’s civil war without the approval from Malaysia’s Censorship Board.
Hendry is part of the human rights group Pusat KOMAS, which helped Hendry organize a film screening of the movie “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.” Before the screening began, an official from the Sri Lankan embassy told the assembly hall manager to stop the event. The manager received the same message from the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Censorship Board, and during the screening 30 Malaysian Home Minister officials, police and Immigration Department personnel arrived on the scene. The officials decided to allow the screening to continue, but arrested Hendry, the Pusat KOMAS president, and a board member. The president and board member have been released, but Hendry awaits trial.
Under Malaysia’s Film Censorship Act, it is a criminal offense to show a film without the Censorship Board’s approval. This law is in direct violation with freedom of speech, but this doesn’t stop the Malaysian authorities. Hendry is charged under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act, which makes it illegal to produce, manufacture, have in one’s possession, circulate, distribute, or display film material that has not been approved by the board. It is suspected that the move to have Henry arrested is politically motivated, as the movie was seen by the parliament without officials getting involved. The film showcases the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government, where artillery strikes killed women, children, and the elderly, alongside fighters and civilians.
The Malaysian people have a right to freedom of speech, and they should have a right to know what is going on within their government and around the world. It is unjust for the government to punish someone who was screening a movie for the people’s benefit. Sign this petition and urge the Prime Minister of Malaysia to drop all charges against Lena Hendry.
Dear Prime Minister Perdana Menteri,
I am writing this letter in regards to the case of Lena Hendry, who is currently on trial for screening a film that was not approved by the Censorship Board of your country. Hendry faces up to three years in prison and a ridiculous fine for showing a film that was meant to educate the populace. I am imploring you to drop all charges and release this human rights defender. What is wrong with informing the public about the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government? Certainly, the people of Malaysia deserve to know what really happened. By denying your people this information, you are preventing them from forming an educated view about the world around them.
I believe it is ridiculous to impose a prison sentence and fine for a film screening. There are worse offenses that deserve this kind of punishment. Again, I am asking you to do the right thing; drop all charges and release Lena Hendry.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Tyler Menezes via flickr