KUALA LUMPUR: All film production in Malaysia, whether by mainstream media for traditional broadcasting or personal social media, requires a licence from the government agency regulating the film industry, said Minister for Communications and Multimedia Saifuddin Abdullah.
In replying to a question raised by Kluang Member of Parliament (MP) Wong Shu Qi in the parliament on Thursday (Jul 23), he said film producers should inform the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) no later than seven days prior to filming via submission of forms.
“No one can participate in any film production, distribution or broadcast activities or any combination of these activities unless a licence is issued authorising the person to do so,” Mr Saifuddin quoted the National Film Development Corporation Act.
He explained that the agency issues three licences for each of the above activities.
“Film producers are required to apply for a Film Production Licence and a Film Shooting Certificate, whether they are mainstream media agencies or personal media showing the film on social media platform or traditional channels,” he said.
Ms Wong then queried the minister on the exact definition of film, asking if this would affect social media users on platforms such as Instagram or TikTok.
Mr Saifuddin replied by quoting legislation that defined film as recordings on any material, including features and short films, short subject films, documentaries, trailers, and short films for advertisement, for viewing by members of the public.
“The government encourages everyone, young or old, individuals or organisations to produce any form of films, as I mentioned just now, as long as it follows the law,” Mr Saifuddin said, adding that the government had offered various grants from different agencies for the purpose.
In a follow-up question, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil from Parti Keadilan Rakyat asked if an American Youtuber had followed such regulations in producing a video rebutting Al Jazeera’s documentary on the treatment of illegal immigrants in Malaysia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The documentary titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown is now the subject of a police probe.
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Dr Dustin Pfundheller, who runs the Other Side of the Truth Youtube channel, had produced the video titled Top 15 Mistakes in Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown. It was subsequently reshared by state news agency Bernama on its Twitter account.
Mr Saifuddin said this would be left to the authorities, and if there were any complaints, action would be taken in accordance with the law and depending on the case.
BACKLASH AGAINST MINISTER'S STATEMENT
The minister's statement has drawn criticism from opposition politicians and MPs, with Ms Wong, who raised the initial question, saying that if that is the case, the government would have to take action against TikTok users and request Youtubers to apply for a licence.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Mr Saifuddin's "unreasonable" statement was a step backwards.
"It is clear the government will take action on all parties, whether politician or social media user, over content which might not be in line with its views," he said in a media statement.
According to the guidelines on licence application on Finas website, applicants have to be registered as owners of a private limited company with a paid-up capital of at least RM50,000.
Former youth minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said the requirements to apply for a licence would kill the creative content industry in Malaysia.
Simpang Renggam MP Mazlee Malik said with the advent of online lessons, students have to film their work and post on public platforms. They would not be able to afford to do so according to the Finas requirements, he added.