Saifuddin: Govt has no intention of stifling personal freedom, says social media didn’t exist when Finas Act was drafted

Earlier, Saifuddin made a sweeping statement that all producers, whether mainstream media or personal entities, must obtain a Film Production Licence and Film Shooting Certificate from Finas before filming. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Earlier, Saifuddin made a sweeping statement that all producers, whether mainstream media or personal entities, must obtain a Film Production Licence and Film Shooting Certificate from Finas before filming. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah stressed today the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has no intention of obstructing personal freedom on social media over his remark that all film producers must get a licence from the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) prior to releasing their content.

Seeking to allay widespread confusion which arose over his Parliament reply this morning to Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi, Saifuddin said certain parts of the ensuing news reports had been depicted inaccurately which led to a different context from his replies.

“When I was answering the question, I only explained the existing law, that is the National Film Development Corporation Act which was passed in Parliament in 1981. The Act was utilised all this while by both the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

“At that time, there was no media social technology such as TikTok, YouTube, etc. The ministry acknowledges that the Act needs to be fine tuned.

“It must be stressed that the PN government never and does not intend to use this Act to obstruct personal freedom on social media, a phenomena that did not exist when the Act was drafted,” he clarified in a statement here this evening.

Earlier, during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat, Saifuddin made a sweeping statement that all producers, whether mainstream media or personal entities, must obtain a Film Production Licence and Film Shooting Certificate (SPP) from Finas before filming.

The minister said the Act requires film producers to give it seven days’ prior notice before filming, adding that this also applies for content released on social media platforms.

Saifuddin said, as minister, he had in a press conference on June 20 announced that the ministry was reviewing all laws under its supervision.

“Therefore, we at the ministry welcome any form of suggestion on amending not just the aforementioned Act, but also all laws under the ministry so that they suit the current needs,” he said.

Saifuddin’s remark also drew concern among PH lawmakers Gobind Singh Deo and Fahmi Fadzil, after they suggested that that anyone 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.

The licensing remark was made in the wake of a controversial documentary by Qatari news agency Al Jazeera titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown aired on July 3 which drew condemnation from Malaysian government officials who claimed it was a biased and misleading portrayal of the treatment of migrant workers in the country during the movement control order (MCO).

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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