By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Controversial Channel4 film director, Callum Macrae, yesterday told Ceylon Today that the ban imposed on his film, preventing it from screening in India, is an act of overt political censorship.The updated version of the original documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, which has some recent events, including violent demonstrations against Muslim and Christian communities and Isaipriya captured alive, had not been issued with a censor certificate for the release in theatres by the Indian Central Board of Film Certification, last week. Earlier, he released a TV documentary version of the film.
In response, Macrae has decided to make it available online in India, free of charge. The film will also be available free in Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the other countries where the screening of No Fire Zone has been banned.
Macrae told Ceylon Today, “There was no suggestion that this was because the film was wrong in what it says. The accuracy of our journalism has been vindicated at every stage by independent examination – and by the continuing emergence of more video evidence backing our contentions.
“When we applied for certification for our film, to allow it to be seen by cinema audiences in India, it was refused. One of the grounds given was that to let people see it might ‘strain friendly relations with Sri Lanka.’ This was an act of overt political censorship. “This ban was an act of short-term political expediency – an attempt to smooth over relations with the ruling regime ofSri Lanka. But my concern is about what this means in the long-term. “India is the most important country in this whole equation after Sri Lanka itself. I can understand India’s conflicting concerns in this situation and the many sensitivities involved. But, equally, India’s obligations in this situation cannot be ignored. India needs to show clear leadership.
“It is a clear lesson of history that without truth you cannot have justice – and without justice you cannot easily move forward to peace, political solutions and reconciliation. So despite the difficulties for India, India has to take the lead here. “I find it very disturbing that a country whose independent history is rooted in the struggle for democratic rights and free speech should have taken what is, in effect, an act of overt political censorship.”
Macrae said he expects to be in Geneva when the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions take place in March. “I do hope to be there to cover the events and to talk to people there. I am sure there will be many events and opportunities to show people the film and present the evidence. I think that the message is getting through to the non-aligned countries that this is not about a Western attack on a small sovereign nation as the government would like to portray it, but actually a question of universal human rights and international humanitarian law.”