The director and producer of a banned Malaysian movie that explores the afterlife have been charged on January 17 with offending the non secular emotions of others in a uncommon legal prosecution of film-makers, slammed by critics as an assault on freedom of expression.
Mohamad Khairianwar Jailani, the director and co-scriptwriter of Mentega Terbang and producer Tan Meng Kheng pleaded not responsible to having a “deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of others” by means of the unbiased, low-budget movie. If discovered responsible, they may withstand a yr in jail, a high quality or each.
Defense lawyer N. Surendran mentioned the 2 imagine the cost is “unreasonable and unconstitutional” as a result of it violates their proper to freedom of expression. “As far as we are concerned, these are groundless charges and we will challenge those charges in court,” he mentioned.
The movie, which debuted at a regional movie pageant in 2021, revolves round a younger Muslim woman who explores different religions to determine the place her ailing mom would go when she dies. Scenes that angered Muslims included ones displaying the woman needing to eat pork, which is forbidden in Islam, and pretending to drink holy water, and her father supporting her want to go away Islam. It additionally sparked dying threats in opposition to Khairianwar.
The movie was briefly proven on a Hong Kong streaming platform final yr earlier than it was eliminated. The Home Ministry banned the movie final September with out giving any purpose. The two film-makers filed a swimsuit difficult the federal government’s choice earlier than they have been charged.
Race and faith are delicate points in Malaysia. Ethnic Malays account for two-thirds of the nation’s 33 million folks and have to be Muslims, with apostasy thought of a sin. There are giant ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities which are Buddhist, Hindu and Christian.
Critics say non secular conservatism has been on the rise in Malaysia, after an influential Malay-Islam alliance gained sturdy positive aspects within the November 2022 basic election.
Human Rights Watch accused Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s authorities of prosecuting the 2 film-makers to win political assist from Malays.
“This sort of crude political pandering at the expense of human rights is precisely the sort of thing that Anwar accused previous governments of doing when he was in the Opposition — but now, he’s hypocritically changed his tune after assuming power, and using the same censorship and persecution,” mentioned the group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson.
“The government should reverse course, uphold human rights principles, immediately direct prosecutors to drop these ludicrous, rights abusing charges, and lift the ban on the film Mentega Terbang, he said.
The court on January 17 also forbid the two film-makers from making statements about the case throughout the trial and ordered them to report to police monthly. Khairianwar has said this is likely the first time a film-maker has been criminally charged in the country.
“I am disappointed if this is a way to silence storytellers and concerned that it would make many more storytellers stop telling their stories out of fear of prosecution,” Khairianwar informed the net information portal Free Malaysia Today a day earlier than he was charged.