Support our Malaysian colleague
The Human Rights Film Network has requested the Malaysian government to drop criminal charges against our colleague Ms. Lena Hendry. She is charged for screening the award-winning documentary "No Fire Zone" in Kuala Lumpur without explicit government approval in July 2013. If Lena is found guilty, she could face a heavy fine and/or a prison sentence. Please support our colleague Lena Hendry by signing this petition.
In a letter addressed at the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney General, the Human Rights Film Network has announced its strong concern about Lena Hendry.
On 14 December 2015, human rights defender Ms Lena Hendry is due to appear at Magistrate Court in Kuala Lumpur. She is charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening a documentary exposing human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the 2009 civil war.
Lena Hendry is a Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation which works to empower indigenous peoples, urban poor, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media. As organiser of the annual Freedom FilmFest in Kuala Lumpur, Pusat KOMAS is member of the Human Rights Film Network.
Lena Hendry is charged under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for showing a documentary entitled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, which is an investigatory documentary about the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. The film reports how thousands of Tamil people were killed by the Sri Lankan military. In the documentary, the Sri Lankan authorities deny the allegations. The Film Censorship Act 2002 imposes a mandatory prior censorship or licensing scheme on ALL films before they can be screened at any event EXCEPT films sponsored by the Malaysian government.
The award-winning documentary "No Fire Zone" was screened by many human rights film festivals from all over the world, including the festivals in Argentina, South Africa, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Switzerland and Ethiopia. In Kuala Lumpur the documentary"No Fire Zone" was screened on 3 July 2013. If Lena Hendry is found guilty, she could face a fine of between RM5,000 and RM30,000 (approximately € 1,170 to €7,020) and a maximum of three years in prison.
Lena Hendry's defence team filed two applications to both the High Court and the Federal Court to strike out the case on the basis that it is unconstitutional and in violation of freedom of expression. However, both appeals were dismissed and the case was transferred back to Magistrate court for trial. Court hearings will take place on 14-15 December 2015 and on 6-8 January 2016.
We believe that this blanket imposition is being used arbitrarily in this case to control the crucial work of human rights defenders such as Lena and members of her organisation, KOMAS, in spreading information and alternative perspectives on human rights issues and violations. This violates individual and civil society and public rights to information, freedom of expression and opinion as enshrined in the United Nations conventions.
Therefore, we call upon the highest Malaysian government officials and attorney general to:
a. Drop charges against Lena Hendry and put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Lena Hendry as well as against all KOMAS members and all human rights defenders in Malaysia;
b. Ensure in all circumstances that KOMAS and its members as well as all human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
c. Repeal of provisions in the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allows arbitrary government control over content of what can be screened in the country.
d. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as
Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;
Recently the Government of Malaysia voted in favour for the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the protection of human rights defenders. The Human Rights Film Network calls on the authorities of Malaysia to demonstrate its commitment to the protection of human rights defenders by halting the proceedings against Lena Hendry, as they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful human rights work, namely raising awareness of the atrocities committed during the civil war in Sri Lanka.
The Human Rights Film Network is a partnership of 40 human rights film festivals around the world. The Network promotes human rights films and supports film makers, in particular those at risk for their life or repressed by censorship. These filmmakers often act as the eyes and ears of the world in situations of conflict and crisis.
You can support our colleague Lena Hendry by signing a petition requesting the highest Malaysian government officials and attorney general to drop the criminal charges against Lena Hendry.
See more information about Lena Hendry’s case in this video.