The law was implemented in 1981 when there was no social media and does not cover the different meaning ‘films’ and ‘videos’ have among the general public.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has declared that one must apply for a licence before making any type of films even if the film type is a video meant for personal social media
Saifuddin said this in the Dewan Rakyat today, 23 July, during the Ministerial Question Time.
The Multimedia minister was responding to Kluang Member of Parliament (MP) Wong Shu Qi who was seeking clarification from him on the definition of ‘film’ under Section 2 of the FINAS Act 1981 and whether or not it encompasses all types of films including TikTok, IGTV, and videos on social media.
What the Kluang MP asked:
“I seek further clarification from the minister on the case of Al Jazeera being enforced with Section 22(1) of the FINAS Act 1981 that the minister quoted just now, whether the definition of ‘film’ the act, encompasses all types of films — including TikTok or IGTV, and all types of film on social media or not,” Wong said.
She then asked the minister to clarify if this act requires everyone, including those posting videos on social media, to apply for a licence from the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS).
Here’s what the Multimedia Minister said:
“Film is interpreted as ‘films’ (which) includes feature films, short films, short subject films, trailers, documentaries, advertising films, and any recording on the material of any kind, including videotapes and video discs, of moving images, accompanied or unaccompanied by sound, for viewing by the public or any class of the public,” Saifuddin replied while quoting an excerpt from Section 2 of the FINAS Act 1981.
He said that as long as people abide by the existing laws, the government encourages “everyone big and small, old and young, individuals or organisations to produce whatever types of films” that he listed.
Saifuddin, however, did not specifically address the Kluang MP’s question, as pointed out by Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil
“I feel like the question was unanswered as to whether IG Live (Instagram Live) and the like are included under the definition,” Fahmi said while pointing out that the Minister evaded a clear answer.
“I want to seek further clarification from the Minister on whether Dr Dustin Pfundheller, the producer of the ‘the Other Side of the Truth’ video that was shared by Bernama. Does he have a licence?” asked Fahmi.
However, Saifuddin only said that the government leaves that to the authorities.
“If there are any complaints etc. we will take action in accordance with the law,” he responded, adding that such issues will be viewed as a case-by-case basis.
Following which, Fahmi once again asked if the producer of the ‘The Other Side of the Truth’ YouTube Channel has a licence or not, although the minister did not respond.
“I guess not,” the Lembah Pantai MP then answered for himself.
Who can apply for a FINAS licence?
According to the National Film Development Corporation’s website, only a registered company with RM50,000 paid-up capital qualifies for a film or video production licence.
In not clearly stating whether or not the act applies to video platforms such as TikTok, the Minister has left a grey area that leaves social media users vulnerable and allows the authorities to apply it arbitrarily
According to the Lembah Pantai MP, Saifuddin’s statement has far-reaching implications on the country’s millions of social media users and can be used for selective prosecution.
“I am sure many will now ask if their social media videos will now need a FINAS licence, based on the Minister’s reading of the law,” Fahmi said after the Dewan Rakyat session.
“More troubling is how this reading could lead to selective prosecution, where only some people will be subject to this requirement while others are not affected,” the PKR MP added.
He also questioned if the same applies to the members of the Parliament who broadcast via social media live video broadcasting features, like ‘Facebook Live’, etc.
“What about (YouTuber) Sugu and Pavithra? What about (Higher Education Minister Dr) Noraini Ahmad who invited students to use TikTok, does that require a licence?”
The law was implemented in 1981 and does not cover the different meaning ‘films’ and ‘videos’ have among the general public
Additionally, the law oversees filming activities by protecting and developing the nation’s film industry.
Section 22 (1) of the FINAS Act 1981 (Act 244) stats that “no person shall engage in any activities of production, distribution, or exhibition of films or any combination of those activities as specified in subsection 21(1) unless there is in force a licence authorising him to do the same.”
In a media statement released on Thursday evening (Jul 23), the minister said that reports on his remarks had given an “inaccurate impression” and imparted a different meaning from his intended answer.
The Malaysian government has no intention of restricting individuals’ freedoms on social media, said Minister for Communication and Multimedia Saifuddin Abdullah, following backlash against his earlier response in parliament that all film producers must apply for a licence prior to production.
“When answering, I only explained regarding current laws, which is the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) Act, which was passed by parliament in 1981,” said Mr Saifuddin.
“It needs to be stressed that the Perikatan Nasional government has never, and has no intent, to use this Act to restrict individuals’ private freedoms on social media, which was a phenomenon which did not exist when the Act was enacted,” he said.
To go with the current times, the law needs to be updated.
The issue about FINAS licence comes amidst an ongoing investigation against Al Jazeera for its latest documentary titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown which showed the plight of migrants.