Malaysia now wants all media companies (and vloggers) to obtain licensing for any video content

Tik Tok Malaysia logo (left) and a man carrying a video camera (right). Photos: Tik Tok Malaysia and Alireza Baidee
Tik Tok Malaysia logo (left) and a man carrying a video camera (right). Photos: Tik Tok Malaysia and Alireza Baidee

In another blow to Al Jazeera, Malaysia now wants all media companies to obtain film licensing to produce any video content, be it documentaries, TikTok clips, or even Instagram stories. 

Companies, and possibly even social media personalities, will soon need to apply for licensing at least a week before filming begins. Such rules were previously applicable only to dramas, telemovies, and advertisements. 

“All filming requires a license from the National Film Development Corporation (Finas), even for personal social media,” Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah announced in parliament this morning. 

“All filmmakers, whether they’re film agencies or social media channels, are required to seek approval from Finas at least seven days prior to the date of filming,” he added. 

The shocking announcement came amid an ongoing probe by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry into whether the Qatari news channel had obtained a license to film the Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown documentary that drew backlash from the government. 

Not having a license would risk losing its media accreditation, Saifuddin had said previously. The documentary focused on the lives of migrant workers under lockdown due to COVID-19. 

Last night, the Qatari news channel criticized the government’s probe, saying that it was contradicting itself as the documentary in question had not required a filming license based on existing rules. 

“Al Jazeera asserts that, according to the Malaysia’s National Film Development Corporation’s own definition, the 101 East weekly current affairs show does not fall into the category of film requiring a license,” a statement by Al Jazeera English Managing Director Giles Trendle read. 

“Unable to contest the integrity of our journalism, we believe the authorities are now attempting this new gambit of claiming we did not have a proper license,” it added. 

“We do not believe this is a credible line of argument. In fact, we believe it is contradicted by the very own published guidelines of the relevant authority.”

Statement by Al Jazeera regarding licensing in Malaysia. Photo: Al Jazeera PR /Twitter
Statement by Al Jazeera regarding licensing in Malaysia. Photo: Al Jazeera PR /Twitter

Saifuddin said that the new film licensing rule will also apply to personal content on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, covering all types of video content of any duration including documentaries and short films.

“Filmmakers are required to apply for the license. It doesn’t matter whether they’re film agencies for traditional platforms, or personal accounts that publish film content on social media,” he said. 

He did not clarify when the new rule would take effect. There are no updates on amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act on the online Federal Gazette.

The 26-minute Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown aired on July 3 and after that drew criticism from the government for being “misleading.”

Yesterday, the Communications and Multimedia Commission, or MCMC, announced that the Astro television network was fined RM4,000 (US$940) over the 2015 broadcast of a documentary about the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu via the Al Jazeera news channel. 

The commission said that the documentary was “offensive” under the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Other stories to check out:

Astro slapped with RM4,000 fine for ‘offensive’ 2015 docu on Altantuya’s murder

Probe into Al Jazeera undermines freedom of speech: CIJ

Keyboard warriors in online war with Al Jazeera over COVID-19 documentary

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