Malaysia set to amend regulations on social media video posts after public backlash

Opposition MPs and netizens had taken Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah to task over his remarks. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Cabinet has decided that Malaysians do not need a licence to post their videos on social media, Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Friday (July 24).

Clarifying his comments in Parliament on Thursday that resulted in a public backlash, he said the government will amend the Finas Act to uphold media and individual freedom.

This appears to be a U-turn from his explanations on Thursday when he informed the Lower House that anyone who wants to post or publish their videos must have a National Film Development Corporation (Finas) licence.

"The Cabinet has agreed to uphold freedom of the media and individual freedom on social media.

"Social media users such as those of TikTok, YouTube... are free to use the platforms to produce and upload videos as usual without the need to apply for a licence or fear being charged under the Finas Act," Datuk Saifuddin said in a statement on Friday.

"The government will amend the Finas Act 1981 (Act 224) by taking into account the current situations," he added.

He said that his latest statement is "a continuation" from what he had said late on Thursday where he said the Perikatan Nasional government has no intention to use Finas Act to curb the personal freedom on social media.

"The ministry has already begun efforts to amend the Acts under the Ministry's scope so that they can be suitable for the current times. The amendment process will begin in the near future," said Mr Saifuddin.

The minister courted controversy on Thursday when he stated that all film production, whether from media outlets or personal media on traditional platforms or even social media, require a licence.

The controversy started when his ministry initiated a probe against broadcaster Al Jazeera for airing a documentary on undocumented migrants in Malaysia that was critical of the government. Mr Saifudin's ministry said the Qatari television news channel filmed it without obtaining a licence from Finas.

Al Jazeera, which has stood by its report, dismissed the licence requirement in a statement on Wednesday. It said that by Finas' own definition, Al Jazeera's 101 East documentary is a current affairs show that does not fall under the body's licensing requirements.

On Thursday, answering an MP's query in Parliament, Mr Saifuddin said it was compulsory for producers of these films to apply for a Film Production Licence and Film Shooting Certificate (SSP) regardless if they are from a mainstream media outlet or personal media.

He said the ministry, through Finas, monitors film activities in its efforts to preserve and develop the film industry based on the Finas Act 1981.

"Finas issues three types of licences to the film industry, they are licences to produce, distribute and broadcast films or videos.

"Section 22 (1) of the Finas Act reads that no one can take part in any activities to produce, distribute or broadcast any film unless a licence is issued to the person," said Mr Saifuddin in reply to opposition MP, Ms Wong Shu Qi, during the Ministerial Question Time.

Opposition MPs and netizens took Mr Saifuddin to task over his remarks, and he said later on Thursday that the government has no intention to stifle individual freedom of expression.

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