Following a number of issues in the communication and multimedia industry over the past few weeks, a member of parliament (MP) has demanded the resignation of Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the current Minister of Communications and Multimedia.
On July 23, it was reported that Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil wants Minister Saifuddin Abdullah to resign over his handling of the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) issue, as this is the third purported gaffe by the communications and multimedia minister since his appointment in March 2020 following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan Government.
“I think after three episodes of missteps since his appointment as minister — (1) the appointment of Mr Eric Paulsen to the Communications and Multimedia Consultative Council, which was withdrawn after it was disputed by various parties; (2) revocation of the 700MHz, 900MHz and 2600MHz spectrum allocations after it was disputed by various parties; and the latest (3) Finas licence issue today which is disputed by various parties — it is time for the minister of communications and multimedia to resign,” reported MalayMail.
Earlier on Thursday, Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said under the Finas Act, film producers are required to inform the corporation via existing channels seven days prior to filming, and this even includes media meant for social media platforms. The following day, the Minister made a statement saying that the Malaysian Government has no intention to use the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Act 1981 to restrict the personal freedom of individuals on social media.
The issue was brought up after KKMM said it will check if Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based TV broadcasting channel, had obtained a license from Finas to produce its 101 East programme titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown documentary before it started production, saying that a lack of license would be considered an offence as permission from Finas is needed before films and documentaries can be produced in Malaysia.
A paid up-up capital of RM50,000 is one of the requirement to apply for the Finas license.
The documentary, aired on July 3, investigated undocumented immigrants that it said were at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. However the documentary sparked an immediate backlash online while several officials decried the report as being inaccurate, misleading and unfair.
The Minister said that the Information Department will cancel Al Jazeera’s media accreditation if it was found to have violated such conditions, noting that the crew would not be free to go anywhere without the media cards issued by the department.
Recently, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia (FCCM) said it was unaware of any requirement to obtain permission from Finas for any news video production, and there was no such issue in the past.
Section 22(1) of the Finas Act 1981 act states that no person shall engage in any activities of production, distribution or exhibition of films or any combination of these activities without a license authorising the person to carry out such activities.
Under Section 25 of the same Act, it is stated that any person who contravenes any provisions of the part of the law — which includes Section 22(1) — is guilty of an offence.
The same Section 25 provides for a punishment of a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a maximum jail term of two years or both if a person is convicted of an offence under the Act, with a maximum daily fine of RM10,000 if the offence is a continuing offence.