74 NGOs and individuals condemn the harassment of Mentega Terbang film crew
SHAH ALAM - 74 non-profit organisations and individuals have firmly condemned the harassment and intimidation of the artistes and filmmakers behind the film Mentega Terbang, who have been subjected to police interrogation, death threats and vandalism of their properties.
On March 15, police questioned the actors, producer and director of Mentega Terbang, a film that has drawn criticism from religious groups for depicting a young woman exploring the concept of the afterlife in various religions as she struggles to come to terms with her terminally ill mother's impending death.
Mentega Terbang, which was released in 2021, was removed from a streaming platform in reaction to the backlash, and some government officials and individuals have also made critical comments, fueling further animosity towards the filmmakers.
“The filmmakers and actors have come under increasing harassment on social media, as well as offline. On March 16, unknown people splashed director Khairi Anwar’s car with red paint.
“Besides, the screenwriter Arjun Thanaruju’s car was also splashed with paint and a corrosive substance. The perpetrators also left notes on both cars containing death threats, including against the families of Khairi and Thanaruju.
“Khairi also received death threats sent to him over short message services (SMS). Police reports of criminal intimidation and mischief have been lodged in relation to these incidents,” it said in a statement.
The investigation of Mentega Terbang actors and filmmakers comes as government officials have praised Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh's Oscar-winning success, expressing optimism that it will serve as an inspiration to other artistes.
“However, the censorship and intimidation of Mentega Terbang shows how artistes in Malaysia do not have true freedom to create, explore and express their creative ideas, and face various forms of censorship.
“The right to free speech and assembly is a right, not a privilege, and one that the Malaysian government must respect, protect, and support, particularly as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
They also remind the government that free expression encompasses all concepts, including those that may offend or challenge religious beliefs and producing a film that some may consider to be insulting to religion is protected under the right to free speech.
“The UN Human Rights Committee has held that the right to freedom of expression protects speech that might be deemed offensive or hurtful to followers of a particular religion, except in circumstances when the speech in question amounts to advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
“While the plot of Mentega Terbang is provocative, no part of the storyline can be said to comprise incitement of hatred.”