Anwar: Govt seems intent on punishing everyone over ‘unreasonable’ Finas licence statement

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 16, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 16, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed today the government intends to punish everyone for displaying content not aligned with the government’s view, following the government’s order for film producers to get a licence from the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) prior to releasing their content.

Joining a growing chorus calling for clarification from the government, Anwar said the latest development was troubling on top of attacks and harassment towards the media such as Al Jazeera since the government took over in March.

Earlier today, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah insisted that all production of films and recording — whether media agencies or individual media outlets — must apply for a licence before filming.

Saifuddin said under the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Act, film producers are required to inform the corporation via existing channels seven days prior to the filming date, and this even includes media meant for social media platforms.

“The rakyat is wondering the rationality of the move to the extent that the order issued by the minister is too general which would also include those who utilised social media including YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and others.

“It is clear that the government wants everyone, regardless if they are politicians or social media users, to have action taken against them for contents that may not be aligned to the government’s view.

“This unreasonable order is a step backwards. At the same time, the government believes it will continue to uphold the freedom of speech. What gives?” he said in a statement here.

Anwar also reminded the government of its Pakatan Harapan predecessor’s success in upholding media freedom, to the point of regaining the confidence of investors and observers.

“With this latest move, the government will erase the efforts of the previous government, while at the same time, commit further transgressions against the country’s democratic values,” he added.

Saifuddin’s remark drew the concern of Pakatan Harapan lawmakers Gobind Singh Deo and Fahmi Fadzil, after they suggested that that any person producing video content, even for personal use on social media, was subject to the licensing requirement that also needed them to have companies with a paid up-up capital of RM50,000 each.

In Parliament during the minister’s question time, Saifuddin responded to Kluang DAP MP Wong Shu Qi, who asked the minister to state whether all film producers will be made compulsory to apply for the Film Production License and Film Shooting Certificate (SPP), regardless whether they are mainstream media agencies or personal media which produce films on social media platforms or traditional channels.

According to Saifuddin, who cited the National Film Development Corporation Act 1982, Section 22(1), said “no person shall participate in any production activities, distribute and exhibit films or any combination the activities specified in Section 21(1) unless a licence is issued authorising him to do so”.

According to Saifuddin, who cited the National Film Development Corporation Act 1982, Section 22(1), said “no person shall participate in any production activities, distribute and exhibit films or any combination the activities specified in Section 21(1) unless a licence is issued authorising him to do so”.

He added that the Additional Conditions of Film Production under Regulations 4 of the Act (Licensing) 1983, Condition (1) that is enforced, “licensees, if filming, should inform the corporation no later than seven days before filming a movie begins through certain forms issued by the corporation”.

Wong’s question came after Saifuddin reportedly said his ministry will check if Al Jazeera had obtained a licence from Finas to produce the documentary — Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown — which was aired on its 101 East weekly current affairs show — 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.

The news outlet has since dismissed claims by 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 had in a statement yesterday said that per Finas’ own definition, its 101 East weekly current affairs show does not fall into the category of film requiring a licence.

He also said the authorities, unable to contest the integrity of their journalism, are now attempting this new gambit of claiming the news outlet did not have a proper licence.

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