Three strikes and you should be out, Lembah Pantai MP tells Saifuddin after Finas licence debacle

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 23, 2020 — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 23, 2020 — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil wants Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah to resign over his handling of the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) issue today, as this is the third purported gaffe by the communications and multimedia minister since his appointment in March.

He cited Saifuddin’s non-answer to questions by Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi on whether users of social media platforms like TikTok need a Finas licence as well as his own question on whether documentary creator Dustin Pfundheller obtained a Finas licence for his well-received documentary Other Side of the Truth which was shared by national news agency Bernama.

Instead, Saifuddin, earlier tonight, after much backlash from the public, said 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 Finas. He added that the ministry is looking to amend outdated laws.

“The YB Minister should have raised these arguments, especially the intention to amend the Act, in his answer to the Dewan Rakyat this morning,” Fahmi said in his statement.

“This is because the Dewan Rakyat is the institution that functions to create or amend an Act. But this did not happen this morning.

“Therefore, I am of the view that the latest statement by the Honourable Minister intends to ‘find a way out’ to soothe the anger of netizens. And most unfortunate, his statement in fact still does not clearly state that a Finas licence is not required by social media users on platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and so on.

Fahmi, who is also PKR’s spokesman on communications, arts and culture, said this is not the only gaffe made by Saifuddin since taking over the ministerial position in March this year.

He cited the latter’s withdrawal of Eric Paulsen’s appointment to the Communications and Multimedia Consultative Council and the revocation of the broadband line spectrum.

“I think after three episodes of missteps since his appointment as minister — (1) the appointment of Mr Eric Paulsen to the Communications and Multimedia Consultative Council, which was withdrawn after it was disputed by various parties; (2) revocation of the 700MHz, 900MHz and 2600MHz spectrum allocations after it was disputed by various parties; and the latest (3) Finas licence issue today which is disputed by various parties — it is time for the minister of communications and multimedia to resign,” he said.

Earlier today, Saifuddin said all productions of films and recording — whether by media agencies or individual media outlets — must apply for a licence before commencing.

He said under the Finas Act, film producers are required to inform the corporation via existing channels seven days prior to filming, and this even includes media meant for social media platforms.

“Film producers must apply for a Film Production Licence and Film Shooting Certificate (SPP) regardless of whether they are mainstream media agencies or personal media which produce films on social media platforms or traditional channels,” Saifuddin said during Minister’s Question Time in Parliament today.

The issue was brought up after Saifuddin 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.

He said 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.

Yesterday, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM) said it was unaware of any requirement to obtain permission from Finas for any news video production, and there was no such issue in the past.

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