We’re not going to use Finas Act to stifle freedom on social media, says minister

The rule under the Finas Act 1981 will not apply to videos on social media. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the government has no intention to use the Finas Act 1981 — which requires a licence for filming — to stifle freedom on social media.

Earlier today, Saifuddin told the Dewan Rakyat that all film producers and media agencies, including individual media outlets, must apply for a licence from the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) before filming.

The rule, he said, also applied to social media platforms. This subsequently led to brickbats, including by Saifuddin’s predecessor, Gobind Singh, who called it impractical.

This evening, however, Saifuddin said that a report based on his response to the Kluang MP gave the wrong impression.

Saifuddin clarified that he was merely explaining the Finas Act 1981 or Act 244, which had been used by the past administrations, namely Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan.

Saifuddin Abdullah

He went on to say that his ministry was currently reviewing the law as it needed to be updated.

“The Perikatan Nasional government has never and has no intention to use the act to stifle personal freedom on social media, which did not exist when the act was formulated,” he said in a statement.

The issue of obtaining a licence from Finas cropped up following claims by Finas that news outlet Al Jazeera had not possessed the necessary licence to film or air a controversial documentary alleging the mistreatment of migrants during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

Al Jazeera later said that according to Finas’ own definition, its 101 East weekly current affairs show did not require a licence.

The documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”, led to an investigation, with government officials calling it biased and misleading.