Malaysian minister says ‘no intention’ to restrict social media use with film licensing

Saifuddin Abdullah speaking at a meeting in March. Photo: Saifuddin Abdullah /Facebook
Saifuddin Abdullah speaking at a meeting in March. Photo: Saifuddin Abdullah /Facebook

After drawing backlash for announcing that any video content would require a filming license to produce, Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah appears to retract his position. 

He wrote online yesterday that he was simply reiterating existing laws even though the outdated National Film Development Corp law, which was passed in 1981, does not cover licensing for social media content or documentaries but only drama, telemovie, and advertisements.

He further contradicted himself by saying that the ministry had no intention to restrict the freedom of social media use with the film licensing rule. 

“When I answered the question (from Kluang rep, Wong Shu Qi), I was merely explaining the current laws in place, which is the Finas Act (Act 244) which was passed in the parliament in 1981,” Saifuddin said. 

“I would like to clarify that the Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) government has no intention to use this Act to restrict personal freedom of social media use, which did not exist when the Act was drafted,” he added. 

Saifuddin went on to say that the ministry was open to feedback on how it could improve the law, also known as the Finas act, to fit the digital age.

“We open to suggestions that would improve the existing Act as well as other laws that are governed by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry so that it reflects on modern times,” he said. 

His statement took a different tone from what he had said in Parliament yesterday when he announced that “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.”

His statement drew backlash from the social media community and netizens who trolled the ministry with random videos of their cats, fancams, and more on feeds. 

Saifuddin’s comment on the film licensing rule comes amid a probe into Al Jazeera’s filming license for the Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown documentary published on July 3 although the Qatari news network said it was not required. 

Al Jazeera has issued a statement saying that the Malaysian government has contradicted itself since existing rules state that the license only applies to dramas, telemovies, and advertisements.

The documentary in question was criticized by the government for being “misleading.” 

Other stories to check out:

Malaysians troll film licensing rule on social media with cat videos, fancams, and more

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

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

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