For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Censoring of movies and advertisement with sex, drug and alcohol scenes and disciplinary action on students for using mobile phones during school hours and compulsory registration of internet cafes are among some of the tough measures to be adopted as part of the plans to improve culture, an official said yesterday.
Cultural Affairs Ministry Secretary G.L.W. Samarasinghe said instructions would be given to completely cut -out all sex and alcohol/drug content from films and advertisements, irrespective of the age group of those viewing them.
The moves come in the wake of the government decision to block internet sites with pornography content. The government announcement that internet pornographic sites would be blocked came after a court ruling which identified 12 such porn sites. (See inside story)
Mr. Samarasinghe said laws would be introduced soon to allow the Public Performances Board to censor films, advertisements and other media material with sex, alcohol or drug content.
He said there was little or no opportunity in Sri Lanka cinemas for local films to be screened because of foreign adults-only films.
The official clarified that local film with an artistic value though bearing the ‘adults only’ label would probably not be affected by the new laws. Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said he would request local film producers to make films that reached international standard but adhered to the cultural values of Sri Lanka.
Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Chief Priyantha Kariyapperuam said all internet cafes would have to apply for registration and their work would be closely monitored to ensure compliance with the law.
He said they were aware that many of these cafes gave easy access to porn websites and the officials would crack the whip on such cafes. Actor and film-maker Sanath Gunathilaka whose ‘Adults Only’ film “Ekamath Eka Rataka” is now showing, said he believed that if the script of the film demanded an intimate scene, a director must have the right to include it in his film and laws should not be a hindrance.
Film director Prasanna Vithanage scoffed at the move, saying it was a “bad joke being played on us”. “If this happens, I’ll have to say that the government is heading in the direction of the Taliban regime.”
Actor Mahendra Perera said he could not understand why this ban was being mooted. “If there is to be a ban, there should be a lot of discussion. It’s alright if obscene films are banned but if they are to ban all adults only films, it will be ridiculous.”
Cinema owners said there could be complications in the manner in which films were categorized.
The problem could arise only with the ‘X’ category, Ceylon Theatres operations manager D. Jayasundara said.
“There are imported and locals films that come under the ‘X’ category. However some films, mainly imported ones, should have a category of their own as they are extremely obscene in comparison to the locally-produced films which aren’t hardcore,” Mr. Jayasundara said calling on the authorities to devise a categorization method to differentiate a hardcore movie from an artistic movie with adult content.