KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — The Cabinet has agreed to amend the National Film Development Corp (Finas) Act to become relevant with the times, following massive backlash over the need for a licence for filming even for social media.
In a statement, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said social media users are free to produce and upload videos online without the need to apply for a Finas licence, nor fear prosecution under the Act.
“The Malaysian government asserts its position to uphold the principles of media freedom and the right to individual freedom on social media sites.
“Social media users are free to use existing platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and the likes, and produce and upload videos as usual without having to apply for licence or worry about being prosecuted by Finas,” Saifuddin wrote in the statement.
He added his ministry has also begun efforts to amend laws which fall under their purview for it to be more applicable to current times.
This amid the unending backlash aimed at Saifuddin following his Parliamentary response to Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi that all productions of films and recording — whether by media agencies or individual media outlets — must apply for licence before commencing.
The minister had said under the 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.
Saifuddin, later in the day, then released a statement indicating a turnaround from his response in the Dewan Rakyat, where he stressed the Perikatan Nasional government has no intention to stifle individual freedom for social media users while conceding that outdated law needs to be amended.
This comes off the back of a controversial news documentary broadcasted on YouTube by Doha-based agency Al Jazeera, which triggered outrage from netizens, and even government leaders.
Further pressure followed after Al Jazeera reporters were summoned to federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman as police initiated investigations into alleged breach of the Communications Multimedia Act, while a Bangladeshi national featured on the documentary had his work permit revoked by the Immigration Department.
The news agency were then accused of breaching the Finas Act apparently for filming the production without proper licensing from Finas, triggering the Parliamentary response from Saifuddin in an attempt to clarify the matter during the Minister’s Question Time.