The banning of a South African film about a relationship between a teacher and a pupil must be challenged, the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) said on Wednesday.
It accused the Film and Publication Board (FPB) of a “rigid and simplistic” interpretation of the law.
“[This] seems to mean that even a film that exposes and opposes child abuse might be banned,” FXI chairman Anton Harber said.
“It is vital that the board’s ham-handed decision be challenged, and they be made to show that this film is so dangerous and harmful that it cannot even be shown before the limited audience of a film festival.”
The Sunday Times reported that the film “Of Good Report” was the first South African film to be banned since 1994. The decision was reportedly made because of the depiction of a simulated sexual act involving a 16-year-old student, played by a 23-year-old actress.
According to the newspaper, board spokesman Prince Mlimandlela Ndamase said the film was banned because it contained “content that carries an illegal act in it”.
“We need to emphasise that, ordinarily, we would not refuse the right of viewers to see the content, but in the interests of the protection of the child and our laws that exist in the country, child pornography is one of these things that are not legally permissible in the country.”
The film’s producer Michael Auret, who is a lawyer, had lodged an appeal against the board’s ruling.
Harber questioned the board’s decision.
“We are expected to simply trust the board and, given our history of the abuse of censorship powers, that is not going to happen.”
He said the country had to deal with and confront child abuse, not hide from it.