Govt insists on filming licence to create content

Under the Finas Act, the production, exhibition or distribution of a film requires a licence from Finas

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

COMMUNICATIONS and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has maintained the need to obtain filming licence from the National Film Development Corp Malaysia (Finas) to produce any form of content for public consumption.

This comes after Finas said international news outlet Al Jazeera’s production of the documentary “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” was made without a film production licence.

This has created public concern over user-generated content on social media platforms.

Under Section 22(1) of the Finas Act 1981, the production, exhibition or distribution of a film requires a licence from Finas.

Persons or entities found to have violated the law can be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison, a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or both, upon conviction.

Saifuddin told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that other by-laws state that a licence holder must inform Finas of their production not later than seven days before filming.

“It is, therefore, mandatory for film producers to apply for a film production licence and film shooting certificate, irrespective of whether they are mainstream media or personal media that publishes on social media or traditional channels,” Saifuddin said.

He was responding to a question by Wong Shu Qi (Pakatan Harapan [PH]-Kluang) who asked if all film producers must acquire the license stated.

The Finas Act defines films as any recordings on any material, including feature films, short films, short subject films, trailers, documentaries and advertising filmlets.

Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil [PH-Lembah Pantai] (picture) subsequently raised another question on whether the same reading of the law will apply to Dustin Pfundheller’s “Other Side of the Truth” video uploaded on Youtube, which was shared by Bernama.

To this, Saifuddin said the government would take necessary action if it is found that Phundeller’s video was produced without the required licence.

“I leave this to the authorities to act according to the law,” he said.

In a press conference held later, Ahmad Fahmi said the minister’s response was unsatisfactory and raised concerns over the use of the Act for selective prosecution.

He said it is unclear if the law applies to all content creators, including political leaders and Youtube stars such as Sugu Pavithra.

“I am not sure if the minister is aware of the full ramifications of his answer,” the MP said.

Al Jazeera’s documentary gave a critical account of the government’s crackdown on undocumented migrants during the Movement Control Order period in May.

Several journalists involved in the documentary have since been summoned by the police for questioning on possible violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Al Jazeera has recently 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 MD Giles Trendle said by Finas’ definition, it’s 101 East weekly current affairs show does not fall into the category of film requiring a licence.

However, later yesterday, Saifuddin issued a statement to clarify on the issue of videos published on personal social media, as it drew some backlash from the public.

He said he was speaking in terms of the existing law, which was passed by Parliament in 1981.

“In 1981, there was no social media like TikTok, YouTube and so on. My ministry acknowledges that this law needs to be updated, we are re-evaluating the laws under our purview,” he said.

He stressed that the government does not intend to use the Act to curb the public’s personal freedom in their social media, a phenomena that had not existed when the Act was introduced.

“We welcome suggestions to improve not only the Finas Act, but any related laws, to make them more relevant with the changing times,” he added.