Proposed Films Act Amendment Gives Police Powers To Search Homes Without Warrant
Hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your hard drive?
In a document released online on 4 Dec by the Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), some drastic changes to the Films Act were proposed.
The 15-page document detailed plans to make amendments to the law in order to redefine what is considered a film. This is intended to help the authorities cope with the expanding spectrum of different media types.
However, one particular amendment stood out the most:
To summarise part F – Enhancements to IMDA’s Investigation and Enforcement Powers – of the document, the proposed amendment allows the authorities such as IMDA and the police to legally enter properties without a warrant, to search for “unlawful” films and media.
Furthermore, in this increasingly digital world, the search includes personal devices such phones, laptops and memory storage equipment like hard drives.
Authorities would also be given the power to seize and dispose of these equipment if they are deemed to house or comprise of “unlawful” films.
It is key to note, however, that authorities already have the power to perform all of these actions but only for obscene or political party films:
This new amendment will increase the extent to all offences under the act, instead of just obscene and politically extreme videos.
Nevertheless, giving the authorities another reason to barge into our personal homes without a warrant is indeed a pretty scary thought.
A long overdue update to an ageing law
In actual fact, the announcement for amendments was made at the beginning of the year by Minister for Communications and Informations, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
The rationale being that the scope of media has increased greatly since Chapter 107 – the Films Act – was revised in 1998. Since then, media has branched out far beyond prehistoric CDs and cassette tape, into smartphones, computers, tablets and even smartwatches.
Hence, the need to refine the definition of “films”.
Additionally, the ways people consume films are also changing with online-streaming services like Netflix becoming more popular.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim mentioned that with so many media sources coming from beyond our shores, proper regulations need to be in place to ensure that our content ratings match local standards.
In other words, a possible reason why they are making changes is because the Films Act is long overdue of a serious update.
Government’s response to international pressure
Perhaps this the government’s response to international pressure regarding a crackdown on online piracy in Singapore.
This comes after Singapore received criticism for being a “haven for pirating copyrighted programming” by major entertainment powerhouses.
To put it simply, these stricter laws will help show that the government is ‘doing something’ in regards to the piracy issue.
To bolster security and anti-terrorism efforts
With the rise of international terrorism and the prevalence of invasive social media platforms, there are greater risks involved in radicalisation through ‘films’ by terrorists groups.
These materials typically take the form of recruitment videos by terrorist groups from their overseas surrogates. It’s no wonder the government is currently seeking greater powers to possibly contain the spread of extremist ideologies or instructions on creating harmful weapons.
This means that if the Films Act was expanded as proposed, it would allow authorities to quickly detect and deter potential terror and security threats in the future.
IMDA calling for public feedback
All in all, until an official statement is made, Singaporeans can only speculate about the reasons behind the required amendments.
If they are simply updating the Films Act as times are changing, we can all be slightly relieved that we aren’t a step closer to George Owell’s 1984.
As this is just a proposal, IMDA has opened the topic for discussion with the general public.
So if you feel that this amendment is too much, it’s time unleash Singaporeans’ ultimate finishing move — complaining.
Do take note that the deadline for sending your opinions to IMDA has been extended to 22 Dec from the initial 15 Dec as mentioned in the proposal.
Fastest fingers first, so get those knuckles cracking and let them know what you think here now.