Asia

MSF charity accuses Bollywood film Phantom of 'endangering staff'

Promotional poster in Delhi for Bollywood film, Phantom Image copyright AP
Image caption Phantom was released in India on Friday

Aid charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) says it is taking legal action over a Bollywood film it claims could endanger its staff in conflict zones.

MSF says the film Phantom depicts an aid worker for a "confusingly similar" fictitious organisation using a weapon - which its employees would never do.

The charity said the film could harm its work in places where its access depends on a reputation for neutrality.

The film's producers have yet to respond to the accusations.

Phantom features an Indian soldier, played by Saif Ali Khan, pursuing Pakistani militants alleged to have planned the 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

His character enlists the help of an aid worker, played by British-Indian actress Katrina Kaif, who works for a charity named Medicine International.

The film does not mention MSF by name.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Katrina Kaif (left) and Saif Ali Khan are major stars in Bollywood

A statement released by MSF said the charity became aware of its association with Phantom after one of its actors said "their character in the film worked for MSF".

"The same character was also shown holding a gun in the film's trailer, something an MSF staff member would never do," the statement said.

The charity says it operates a strict "no-guns policy" at all its clinics and none of its staff are armed.

Martin Sloot, the general director of MSF India, said the organisation in the film "has aspects that are confusingly similar to MSF, whilst others are entirely incorrect".

The "blurring of the lines between fact and fiction" could affect MSF's work in places where it relies on people to trust that it is "a neutral, impartial and independent organisation", he said in a statement.

The MSF statement said it was taking legal action to correct the misrepresentation.

Meanwhile, Phantom was banned by a Pakistani court in response to a complaint by Hafiz Saeed, the founder of a Pakistani militant group who has been accused by India of plotting the Mumbai attacks.

Mr Saeed said the film - which features a villain named "Hariz Saeed" - vilifies him, Reuters news agency reports.