India ‘bans’ controversial documentary on SL war

By S Venkat Narayan Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, February 23: India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has refused a censor certificate to the controversial documentary "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka," on the last phase of the socalled Eelam War IV between Sri Lankan security forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in early 2009.

The documentary , in the public domain for over three years, has been contested by the Sri Lankan government as propaganda to discredit it in the eyes of the international community.

In a statement from London on Saturday, the producers of the film said the documentary’s director, Callum Macrae, had decided to make it available for "free streaming online" in India.

The producers have accused the Indian authorities of "political censorship of unpalatable truths" for refusing a censor certificate on the ground that it "may strain friendly relations with Sri Lanka."

According to the press release, the board also found most of the visuals of the film, "which documents war crimes… at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war," disturbing.

Reacting to the failure to obtain the censor certificate, Macrae said: "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."

The decision to make the film available for "free streaming online in India" has been billed as a mark of protest against "the ban." It would be available for free streaming from Sunday in English and with Hindi sub-titles. The film was screened in Chennai on Saturday by Youths and Students Federation, a pro-Tamil group.

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