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Johor NGO fined US$530 for breaching Malaysia’s film censorship law

Johor Yellow Flame, an NGO in Johor Bahru, fined US$530 for breaching Malaysia’s Film Censorship Act, raised funds with strong community support. They denounced the law as unrealistic, fearing it could be used to suppress dissenting views.



JOHOR, MALAYSIA: Johor Yellow Flame (JYF), a Johor-based NGO, was fined RM2,500 (approximately US$530) by the Ministry of Home Affairs of Malaysia for breaching the Malaysian Film Censorship Act.

The fine followed the abrupt cancellation of a scheduled documentary screening on 30 March this year.

The documentary, titled “She’s In Jail,” focuses on the story of Hong Kong human rights lawyer and social activist Chow Hang-tung.

The event, organized by JYF, was interrupted by officers from the Film Censorship Board (LPF) under the MHA, alongside police personnel, who arrived at the screening venue and halted the event.

JYF member Lee Chen Kang, the event’s coordinator, was arrested at the scene and interrogated by MHA. His hard drive and laptop were also confiscated before the investigation concluded.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (12 June), JYF revealed that on 7 June, they received a “Notice of Offer to Compound Offense” from the MHA, with a fine amounting to RM2,500.

In response, JYF launched a crowdfunding campaign, appealing to the community for support to pay off the fine.

The campaign quickly gained momentum, and by 8:30 PM on Wednesday, JYF announced via Facebook that they had successfully reached their fundraising goal.

“We thank our supporters for their swift and solidary support,” JYF expressed in their post, emphasizing the strong community backing against the ministry’s actions and highlighting the importance of freedom of expression in Malaysia.

JYF also confirmed that any funds raised beyond the RM2,500 required would be donated to the Freedom of Expression (FOE) Cluster’s legal aid fund, which provides legal assistance to civil society.

Section 6(1) of the Film Censorship Act states that no person shall own or allow to be in their possession or distribute, exhibit, circulate, display, produce, issue, sell, or rent any film or film promotional material that has not been approved by the Film Censorship Board.

Offenders may face fines between RM1,000 and RM30,000, or imprisonment for up to three years.

In a statement, JYF criticised that Section 6(1) of the Film Censorship Act, which mandates that all films must be submitted for review, is unrealistic and will only serve as a tool for malicious reporting and suppression of differing opinions, as demonstrated in their case.

“We respect freedom of speech and public opinions on various issues, but we strongly oppose any party using public power to suppress the freedom of expression of others.”

In April, JYF denounced the actions of Malaysian authorities as unnecessary and a misuse of public funds.

JYF reiterated their commitment to collaborate with other civil society organizations in Malaysia to safeguard freedom of speech moving forward.

Civil society’s strong critique of Malaysian film censorship

The Malaysian authorities’ censorship of films has faced strong criticism from civil society.

In March 2023, Zaid Malik, the Director of Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), lambasted Malaysian government leaders for their hypocrisy and insincerity in lauding Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar win while concurrently persecuting local film producers and actors.

In January of this year, the producer of the Malaysian indie film ‘Mentega Terbang’ (Flying Butter) was charged in court for deliberately wounding the religious sentiments of others under Section 298 of the Penal Code.

This action followed the banning of their movie, ‘Mentega Terbang,’ by the Home Ministry in September 2023 and its removal from the streaming platform Viu in March 2023.

The Freedom Film Network, a community and engagement-driven network of Malaysian social filmmakers, strongly criticized the government’s practice of banning the film and subsequently criminalizing the filmmakers, deeming it an antiquated form of content control.

They also called on the Madani government to repeal and amend provisions in the Film Censorship Act, Communications and Multimedia Act, and the Penal Code, such as Section 298 and Section 505(b), which infringe upon the constitutional right to free expression.

Recently, Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail reiterated to Parliament that Malaysia does not recognize the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) lifestyle, and any film promoting this lifestyle will not be approved for screening in Malaysia.


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If the PH / UMNO / GRS coalition govt is serious about freedom of speech and assembly.

Get rid of all government agencies that exist solely to “curate” media. Remove the need for police permits to peacefully protest.