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Amend outdated Finas Act, not use it to silent dissidents

Media Statement by Wong Shu Qi, Member of Parliament for Kluang on 23 July 2020 (Thursday) in Parliament

The Minister of Communication and Multimedia, Saifuddin Abdullah, should table an amendment to the outdated “Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia Act 1981” instead of using it to silent dissidents or media agencies.

This morning, the Minister shocked social media users when replying to my question in Parliament by saying that all videos whether on traditional or social media will have to apply for the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) license according to Section 22(1) Finas Act 1981.

Similarly the current government cited Section 22(1) to investigate Al Jazeera’s documentary “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” two days ago. It has since opened a Pandora’s box on filming activities in Malaysia.

If a news agency is required to apply for license for every video it produces daily, it will mean a heavy work load for Finas officers. Furthermore, the Minister of Communication and Multimedia confirmed in Parliament today that all filming activities and distributions of film are required to apply license with Finas even if they are produced by personal media. 

Undoubtedly, the law is an outdated one. It was enacted during those years when filming activities were only confined to the film industry, news agency and commercial use. However, we are now in an era where everyone can film. Social media users with smartphone upload millions of video to Youtube, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram everyday. Some are even earning money, making and sharing videos on social media platforms.

The Al-Jazeera documentary “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”

By enforcing this law, Muhyiddin’s government is basically making video filming an illegal activity in Malaysia. Will the government take action against all TikTok users? Will the government request every Youtuber to apply for license? More importantly, will the government request senior minister Ismail Sabri to apply for license before broadcasting live press conference videos? 

It is untenable, undemocratic and irrational to enforce the section 22(1) Finas Act 1981. Applying the act on Al-Jazeera is a clear signal that Muhyiddin’s government wants to silent dissidents and media agency. I hereby call upon the minister to table an amendment to the outdated “Finas Act 1981” as soon as possible.

Wong Shu Qi,
Member of Parliament for Kluang.

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