ISLAMABAD: Public release of the record relating to the censorship of films can risk Pakistan’s defence and security; the Central Censor Board stated it in response to an information request filed by this scribe.
In November last year, Oscar contender Pakistani film “Joy Land” was banned from screening in the country. The regulatory body claimed the ban was imposed after receiving complaints that the film contained ‘highly objectionable material.’
In December 2022, this scribe filed an information request to the censor board aiming to know about the working and performance of the censor board. The censor board was requested to share a list of the films reviewed and banned from 2019 to date. The authority was also requested to provide a list of the cinema houses fined for screening films without the approval of CBFC. Furthermore, this scribe had sought details of the fine imposed, the current status of the cinema, and a copy of the SOP to review the film before its screening.
This scribe, through information request, also sought information about the budget and Details of the TA/DA claimed by the Chairman and Vice Chairman in FY 2020-21, 2021-22, and FY 2022 to date.
The censor board did not respond to the information request, which this scribe approached the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC).
The censor board on January 31, 2023, through a letter sent to PIC, refused to provide the requested information, and claimed that it is exempt from disclosure under Section 7, 16(b) (v) and 16 (e) of the right of access to information act, 2017.
The letter from the censor board states, “the information required by the applicant from partially S.No. 2 to 6 and S.No. 8 to 9 cannot be shared publicly. It is pertinent to mention here that the information regarding above mentioned serial numbers required by the applicant is confidential under Section 7, 16(b) (v) and 16 (e) of the right of access to information act, 2017, due to chance of any mishap with the department as in the past CBFC has received threats many occasions.”
The interesting thing is that Section 16 (e) of the act is about defence or the security of Pakistan.
Section 16 (e) of the act states information may be exempt if its disclosure is likely to cause serious prejudice to the: (i) defence or security of Pakistan; or (ii) the capability, effectiveness of the armed forces of Pakistan or other law enforcement agencies;
When contacted, Aftab Alam, Senior Lawyer and Executive Director IRADA, said, the information about the licenses/NOCs issued by the censor board and other information should be available on the website of the board under the Section 5 of the right of access to information act, 2017.