Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#StifledSpeech: Indian censor bans public screenings of Callum Macrae's 'No Fire Zone'

'No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka', British journalist Callum Macrae's controversial documentary about the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War has been banned from public screenings in India.

India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refused to certify the film which claims that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in indiscriminate shelling by the Sri Lankan government in the bloody and chaotic final days of the Island nation's three-decade long ethnic conflict.

In a statement, the CBFC said that the film was unfit for release in theatres because "most of the visuals are of a disturbing nature and not fit for public exhibition".

The film has proved hugely controversial around the world.

Large segments of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora and those in South India who support a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka have cited the documentary as evidence of the oppression of Tamils on the Island. 

The Sri Lankan government has dismissed it as "propaganda".

On Saturday a youth group in Chennai held a public screening of the film in defiance of the CBFC's decision.
Amnesty International condemned the CBFC's decision as an "attack on freedom of speech and freedom of information in India".

In a statement on its website, the rights group said: "The ban on public screening of No Fire Zone comes as a surprise as the film has been previously screened in India and stories of excesses uncovered by it led to major outrage that forced a response from Indian leaders.

This ban will prevent a large number of Indians from learning about the serious allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been leveled against Sri Lankan troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam."

"India risks undoing some of the great work it has done to support a just reconciliation process in Sri Lanka including what the Indian envoy to the UN Human Rights Council said was the need for a 'credible investigation which is to the liking of the international community'", the statement added.

In 2011, a United Nations panel said that up to 40,000 people, mainly ethnic Tamil civilians trying to escape fighting in northern Sri Lanka were killed as the Civil War came to an end in 2009.

The Sri Lankan government states that fewer than 10,000 people were killed and accuses the LTTE of using civilians as "human shields".



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