Gobind slams successor for Finas licensing statement, says minister may exempt anyone from permit provision

Gobind urged Saifuddin to take a look at Section 34A of the Finas Act. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Gobind urged Saifuddin to take a look at Section 34A of the Finas Act. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Former communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo has taken his successor to task after remarking 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 his statement, Gobind, who is also Puchong MP, said that Saifuddin may have the power to exempt any person or class of persons from the requirements of any of the provisions of the Act.

Earlier today, 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.

“Perikatan Nasional (PN) takes a regressive stance on film and social media which could significantly curtail media freedom.

“It is impractical to expect or require all social media users to comply with Section 21 and 22. Even if those sections include social media, which is arguable, the minister need not take that position.

“He may have the power to exempt any persons or class of persons from the requirements of any of the provisions of the act,” Gobind said, urging Saifuddin to refer to Section 34A of the Finas Act instead.

“He should look at that provision carefully, be realistic and practical in keeping with new technology and the media landscape of today,” Gobind told Malay Mail.

Section 34A of the Finas Act reads: “The Minister may exempt any person or class of persons from any or all of the provisions of this Act.”

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”.

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”.

“By submission of the form, the SPP will be issued by the corporation,” he said, referring to Finas.

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.

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.

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil had later pressed Saifuddin to explain if he meant all Malaysians were required to obtain a licence to produce any video content, after the minister implied so in Parliament.

Fahmi said the minister’s remarks were worrying as 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.

He pointed to a recent video published by content creator Dustin Pfundheller on his Facebook page titled Other Side of the Truth on May 18 and asked the minister if this production was also licensed.

The video was shown on the state-owned Bernama TV.

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