Avoid ‘witch hunt’ over Mentega Terbang, citizens’ groups tell Putrajaya
KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 – Several civil society groups, creative organisations and individuals have urged the government to not engage in a “witch hunt” over the Mentega Terbang movie.
In a joint statement, they asked the government to instead ensure a safe environment for filmmakers and artists to practise their craft.
They stressed that creative content deemed offensive by certain individuals and groups must be handled in an independent, professional and transparent manner to protect both the creative freedoms of artists, as well as vulnerable minors.
“We believe the long-term solution does not lie in tightening censorship, pursuing punitive measures, nor allowing religious advisors to decide what is acceptable or unacceptable creative content,” they said.
The signatories included Amnesty International Malaysia, singer-songwriter and academic Azmyl Yunor, the Association of Women Lawyers, writer and musician Brian Gomez, Beyond Borders, the Centre for Independent Journalism, arts practitioner Chi Too, writer and academic Faisal Tehrani, Five Arts Centre, Freedom Film Network, and GERAK (Malaysian Academic Workforce Movement).
The statement was in response to the federal police confirming on Monday an investigation into the locally produced Mentega Terbang movie over recent allegations of religious provocation.
Prior to that, a total of eight police reports were lodged claiming offence over parts of the movie that was released in 2021.
In today’s statement, the coalition also questioned the apparent lack of response by the authorities over the threats of physical violence and sexual harassment against the filmmakers and producers of Mentega Terbang.
“In effect, they are of the opinion that such inaction sends the message that threats of violence are acceptable if one feels offended. This creates a culture of fear that endangers filmmakers and artists,” they said.
The group said criticisms of and counter-perspectives to any content should be allowed in a democratic society as long as it is expressed in a non-violent and peaceful manner.
Released in 2021, the movie explores the similarities and expressions of the major religions in Malaysia.
The story revolves around the journey of 15-year-old Aishah, who becomes curious about faith and the afterlife because of her mother’s declining health.
Following its release on the Viu streaming service last January, the movie was criticised by some members of the public including local singer Caprice as well as by Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), which lodged a police report against it last week.