Malaysian Communications and multimedia minister Saifuddin Abdullah's argument in Parliament on filming activities on Thursday left not only the common people confused but also the members of the opposition party. "All individuals are required by law to have a license for filming activities," said Abdullah, leaving people wondering about the meaning of the statement.
Abdullah was answering a question in Parliament on the probe against Al Jazeera with regard to its documentary that showed the Malaysian government in poor light. "The rule applies to everyone, be it mainstream media, or personal media," said the minister specifying that everyone must acquire a license for filming activities from National Film Development Corporation (Finas).
Does Finas Act Apply to People Using Social Media?
Reacting Abdullah's announcement, Opposition MP Wong Shu Qi questioned whether the Finas Act applied to media practitioners and social media users as well. To this, the minister stated that it was covered under the laws and regulations in place.
"We encourage filming activities, but everything is subject to existing laws and regulations," the minister added. Thus there is confusion among people if they need to pay to get a license every time they post any video on TikTok, YouTube, Facebook or any other social media.
Citing the license rule, Kuala Lumpur opposition MP Fahmi Fadzil stated that an applicant must have a paid-up capital of RM50,000 ($11,700 USD). He also expressed concern over the fact that during the time of lockdown restrictions, most MPs are dependent on Facebook Live and said that getting a license for every video was not practical. He sought clarity on the issue from the minister.
What is The Al Jazeera Documentary Row?
The row cropped up after Al Jazeera's documentary, Locked Up In Malaysia's Lockdown, that was broadcast at the beginning of July as part of the 101 East documentary program was broadcast. The documentary depicted the life of undocumented migrants in the country and highlighted the struggles they were faced with due to the Malaysian government's decision to impose a partial lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the emergence of reports claiming that the documentary was portraying the four-month-old Malaysian government in a bad light, the government initiated a Sedition Act probe against Al Jazeera's journalists, and those who were a part of the documentary.
However, Al Jazeera has refused to budge and argued that the documentary fell under the current affairs segment and did not come under the legal sections that made obtaining of license for filming compulsory. The minister has not responded to this claim nor has he clarified whether the rule also applies to social media.