Med­i­cal char­ity MSF takes le­gal ac­tion against mak­ers of "Phan­tom"

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

In­ter­na­tional char­ity Médecins Sans Frontières ( MSF) is tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against the pro­duc­ers of Bol­ly­wood film Phan­tom, say­ing its mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the med­i­cal group could put its aid work­ers de­ployed in con­flict zones at risk.

Ac­tion-thriller Phan­tom was re­leased on Fri­day and fea­tures Bri­tish-In­dian ac­tress Ka­t­rina Kaif as an MSF aid worker who helps a dis­graced In­dian soldier - played by ac­tor Saif Ali Khan - to as­sas­si­nate Pak­istani mil­i­tants ac­cused of be­ing be­hind the 2008 Mum­bai bomb­ings.

In pro­mo­tional in­ter­views for the film this week, Kaif was quoted as say­ing, "NGO work­ers have ties with lo­cal fa­nat­i­cal groups" in war-torn re­gions, with­out men­tion­ing that many aid groups main­tain strict neutrality in or­der to do their work safely. In the film's trailer, her char­ac­ter is seen fir­ing a pis­tol and ri­fle in two dif­fer­ent scenes.

MSF said it had not been con­sulted over the con­tent of the film and was not as­so­ci­ated with it in any way. The hu­man­i­tar­ian agency had "a strict no guns pol­icy" in all its clin­ics and did not em­ploy armed guards, it added.

"None of our staff would ever carry a gun. Any por­trayal that sug­gests oth­er­wise is dan­ger­ous, mis­lead­ing and wrong," MSF said in a state­ment late on Thurs­day. "We have con­tacted the film's pro­duc­tion team and are tak­ing le­gal ac­tion in or­der to cor­rect this dan­ger­ous mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our or­gan­i­sa­tion and its work." The film's di­rec­tor Kabir Khan and pro­duc­ers Sa­jid Na­di­ad­wala and Sid­dharth Roy Ka­pur could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

Phan­tom was banned by a Pak­istani court last week in re­sponse to a pe­ti­tion filed by Hafiz Saeed, the man In­dia ac­cuses of mas­ter­mind­ing the killing of 166 peo­ple over three days in Novem­ber 2008.

Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-i-Taiba which the United Na­tions has listed as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, said the film whose main vil­lain is a man called "Hariz Saeed" ma­ligns Pak­istan and vil­i­fies him.

MSF - which has thou­sands of health work­ers such as doc­tors, nurses, sur­geons, anaes­thetists and psy­chi­a­trists in more than 70 coun­tries - said it was es­sen­tial that the group was not mis­rep­re­sented given the dan­ger­ous na­ture of their work. "The only way we can safely work in places such as Syria, Afghanistan and Ye­men, where there is ac­tive fight­ing, is by ex­plain­ing to ev­ery group on the ground that we are in­de­pen­dent, neu­tral and im­par­tial and in­ter­ested only in pro­vid­ing med­i­cal care to peo­ple who need it," MSF said.

"Any por­trayal that sug­gests MSF does any­thing other than pro­vide med­i­cal care could en­dan­ger our pa­tients, staff, our abil­ity to work in places where peo­ple might not oth­er­wise have ac­cess to healthcare and un­der­mine our rep­u­ta­tion," MSF added.

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