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KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — News outlet Al Jazeera has dismissed tonight the claims by the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) that it did not have the necessary licence to film or air its documentary on the alleged mistreatment of migrants in Malaysia.
Al Jazeera English managing director Giles Trendle said that per Finas’ own definition, its 101 East weekly current affairs show does not fall into the category of film requiring a licence.
“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 licence,” he said in a statement released on Al Jazeera’s official Twitter account.
Adding that Al Jazeera does not believe this is a credible line of argument, Trendle said they in fact believe it is contradicted by the very own published guidelines of the relevant authority.
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 licence. 1/3 @AJ101East pic.twitter.com/vPbiAKP1qI— Al Jazeera PR (@AlJazeera) July 22, 2020
On Monday, Finas said it had carried out an investigation on Al Jazeera International (M) Sdn Bhd regarding the production of the documentary titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown and found that the company does not hold the necessary licence to film or air its documentary.
Al Jazeera drew criticism after the documentary aired on July 3, with government officials claiming it is biased and misleading.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah reportedly said his ministry will check if Al Jazeera had obtained a licence from Finas to produce the documentary before it started production, saying that a lack of licence would be considered an offence as permission from Finas is needed before films and documentaries can be produced in Malaysia.
Saifuddin was reported as saying that the Information Department will cancel Al Jazeera’s media accreditation if it was found to have violated such conditions, noting that the crew would not be free to go anywhere without the media cards issued by the department.
Finas had on July 20 said it would cooperate with the police in investigations against Al Jazeera under Section 22(1) of the Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia Act 1981 (Amendment 2013) for producing a documentary film without a valid licence from Finas.
Malay Mail’s check of the Act shows Section 22(1) as stating that no person shall engage in any activities of production, distribution or exhibition of films or any combination of these activities without a licence authorising the person to carry out such activities.
Under Section 25 of the same Act, it is stated that any person who contravenes any provisions of the part of the law — which includes Section 22(1) — is guilty of an offence.
The same Section 25 provides for a punishment of a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a maximum jail term of two years or both if a person is convicted of an offence under the Act, with a maximum daily fine of RM10,000 if the offence is a continuing offence.
Among other things, Finas’ functions under the Act include the development of the film industry, and the regulation and control of the production, distribution and exhibition of films in Malaysia and to issue licences for such purposes.