Tuesday, October 20, 2015

LENA HENDRY, HR Defender, Still in Court after 2 years? Drop the Charges NOW.

What's happening to Lena Hendry? 2 years 1 month has passed, and she is still in court...She was charged on 19/9/2013...

Lena Hendry took up a challenge at the Federal Court, on the basis that the charge was unconstitutional but the Federal Court recently dismissed the said application. [Sorry, we do not have more on the said application, the grounds or the reason the Federal Court dismissed the said application]

The case has now been sent back to the Magistrate Court for hearing, and the Magistrate Court has fixed 30/10/2015 as a mention date.

Sometimes, in my opinion, the best approach is to commence and maintain an on-going campaign, which needs the help of people committed to Human Rights and Justice. 

It must be a campaign that just will not rely on courts doing justice - since sometimes, what we have are 'legal' bad laws - that would not be just laws or laws that respect fundamental human rights. In Malaysia, sadly we have many of such 'legal' BAD laws. We have gotten rid of some of these 'bad laws' like the Internal Security Act(ISA). 

Hence, for justice the campaign must go beyond national judicial mechanisms to ensure that justice wins...

The people that need to be lobbied are the 'you and me' all over this world that want justice and human rights...likewise there are also many governments and regional bodies that also do respect human rights who can and will lobby Malaysia to drop the charges....

But alas, always the choice of how to fight depends also in the 'victims'. Some victims do take the option to believe in the courts, and may even not want others to continue other forms of campaign. In Malaysia, in the past, there have been several worker cases, whereby the Unions affected has sometimes called on other human rights defenders to stop all other campaigns...and if that be the position of the 'victims of injustice' or their Unions, what can the rest of us do?

Ms. Lena Hendry
Ms. Lena Hendry

We, the 111 undersigned civil society groups, trade unions and organizations are shocked that the Malaysian government, after the recent General Election has resorted to charging human rights defender Lena Hendry on 19 September 2013 for being involved in the screening of a documentary "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" at a human rights event in Kuala Lumpur on 9 July 2013.

Lena Hendry was charged for an offence under the Film Censorship Act 2002, in connection with the screening of a video which was not vetted and approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia. If convicted, she faces the sentence of a ‘…fine of not less than five thousand ringgit and not more than thirty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both…’ 

She is charged under Section 6 of the Act that makes it an offence to, amongst others, to produce, manufacture, have in one’s possession, circulate, distribute and display such film or film-publicity material which has not been approved by the Board. 

This may include video material ranging from family videos, videos of political and human rights material including recordings of forums and speeches, videos about citizen rights including the right to free and fair elections or worker rights, and even videos about rights violations in other countries including Palestine.

A ‘…videotape, diskette, laser disc, compact disc, hard disc and other record of a sequence of visual images, being a record capable of being used as a means of showing that sequence as a moving picture, whether or not accompanied by sound…”, is also included in the definition of ‘film’ as provided for in Section 3 of the Film Censorship Act. It is absurd that in Malaysia, the law requires one to get approval of the Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board for all such material.

The Act is also discriminatory as it does not apply, amongst others, to “...any film sponsored by the Federal Government or the Government of any State...”. The government does not need to obtain approval from the Censorship Board, but everyone else is expected to do so.

At present, the practice of getting approval from the Film Censorship Board usually applies to films screened in cinemas and cineplexes to a paying audience. Even when it comes to television, it is believed that there may be no pre-requirement for getting approval from the Censorship Board for all that is shown except for feature movies.

The charging of Lena Hendry in September 2013 by the Malaysia government is seen as an effort to limit access to information and alternative views particularly those highlighting human rights violations and alternative perspectives. This violates individual and civil society and public rights to information, freedom of expression and opinion.

If the screening and usage of such material incites a criminal act, or violates another person’s rights, there are existing laws to address this. There is no requirement for any prior government approval or ‘censorship’.

In Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 World Press Freedom Index, Malaysia has fallen to its lowest-ever position because of the decreasing access to information. Malaysia embarrassingly dropped 23 places, and now ranks 145 out of 179.

Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states clearly that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at national and international levels.”

Lena Hendry, has the right to ‘…freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms…’, and that should include the right to use films, documentaries and other video materials.

To advocate a policy or a law that says that film or video material must be pre-approved by the government before it can be used is in itself a violation of principles of human rights and the UN Human Rights Defender Declaration.

Therefore, we

Call on the Malaysian Government to immediately and unconditionally drop the criminal charges against Lena Hendry;

Call for the repeal of provisions in the Film Censorship Act 2002 that obligates persons to seek approval of the government vis-à-vis the Film Censorship Board before a film, videotape, diskette, laser disc, compact disc, hard disc and other record of a sequence of visual images can be used;

Call on the Malaysian government to recognize, promote and respect human rights, including those contained in the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration

Charles Hector 
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf the 111 organisations listed below

ALIRAN All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Malaysia Angkatan Rakyat Muda (ARM), Malaysia Aksi For Gender, Social And Ecological Justice, Indonesia ASEAN Youth Assembly Asia Pacific Forum on Women, law and Development (APWLD) Academy of Tamil Studies, Malaysia Boat People SOS Burma Partnership,Cambodian Human Rights Association ( ADHOC ) Campaign for a Life of Dignity for All (KAMP), Philippines Civil Right Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Malaysia Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), Malaysia Centre of Education. Research and Development (CEDAR) Malaysia Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia Child Development Initiative Malaysia Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), Malaysia Community Action Network, Malaysia Community Resource Centre, Council of Temples Malaysia Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur Dignity International Empower Foundation, Thailand ENGAGE Federation of Indian Non-Governmental Organisations Foundation for Women, Thailand Friends of Burma, Chiang Mai Gabungan Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Masyarakat India Selangor Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, Group of Concerned Citizens Malaysia, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) Indonesia Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE) Malaysia Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) , Malaysia JERIT, Malaysia Kelab Bangsar Utama, Malaysia Kesatuan Kebangsaan Pekerja Pekerja Perusahaan Alat Alat Pengangkutan Dan Sekutu(NUTEAIW) Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan Semenanjung Malaysia (KSIEWSSM) Kuala Lumpur Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals, Law and Society Trust, Colombo Sri Lanka LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysia MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates Malaysian Dravidian Association Malaysians for Beng Hock Malaysian Hindu Youth Council Malaysian Indian Business Association Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association Malaysian Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
Malaysian Indian Historical Association Malaysia Indian Progressive Educational Society Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association MAP Foundation, Thailand MARUAH, Singapore Migrant CARE MTUC(Malaysian Trade Union Congress) Pahang, National Union of Bank Employees, Malaysia (NUBE), Nationwide Human Development And Research Centre, Malaysia Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia ( NAMM), Network for Democracy and Development Parti Rakyat Malaysia(PRM) Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) Pax Romana ICMICA Peace Institute of Cambodia Peace Women Across the Globe Indonesia Peoples' Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand, Peoples Service Organisation (PSO) , Malaysia PERGERAKAN Indonesia Perkumpulan Tafena Tabua, Kupang - Indonesia Persahabatan Semparuthi Johore, Malaysia Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM KL & Selangor Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS) Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS), Malaysia Projek Dialog, Malaysia SABM Melbourne, Australia, Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee, Malaysia SALT(School of Acting Justly Loving Tenderly and Treading Humbly), Malaysia Sarawak Dayak Iban Association Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) Selangor Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals Semparuthi Iyakkam Malaysia Sisters In Islam, Malaysia SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) Tenaganita, Malaysia The Asian Muslim Action Network (Aman) Indonesia,The Association of Women Lawyers, Malaysia The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec, Canada VIVAT International-Indonesia WH4C (Workers Hub For Change) Women's Centre for Change (WCC) Penang Women's Network for the Advancement and Peace, Thailand Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) Nepal World Tamil Federation – Malaysian Chapter Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Malaysia Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, Thailand, Yayasan LINTAS NUSA Batam - Indonesia Youth for Peace Cambodia, Advocacy and Policy Institute (API), Cambodia Labour Behind the Lablel, United Kingdom ARTICLE 19 Forum for Democracy in Burma Bersihkan Malaysia Perth, Australia Women's Aid Organisation, Malaysia WAC, Phillipines Housing Rights Task Force, Cambodia. NLD LA, Malaysia Tourism Employees Association of Maldives" (TEAM).

- 2/10/2013 Joint Statement. 

Many groups have been issuing statements and showing support to Lena Hendry - but alas, unless unless extra efforts are made, this is but one of the many human rights concerns in Malaysia, and Lena Hendry is not some prominent Opposition political figure - but just a Human Rights Defender. 

For updates on the Lena Hendry Case, visit the 'In Defence of Lena Hendry' website maintained now by Pusat Komas at http://komas.org/indefenceoflenahendry/(Hope that the good work of keeping us updated will continue)


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