A new law about filmmaking in Malaysia was announced last Thursday by the Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Saifuddin Abdullah. He stated that “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.”
Besides the possibly obvious controversy around an announcement like this concerning freedom of speech and the press, this new rule also brings about another worry. It will not only affect the traditional filmmaking industry creating feature films and television, but also could outlaw millions of YouTubers and TikTok users, as the ruling states that the license applies to filmmaking on any scale. Abdullah described filmmakers as anyone who creates “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.”
In order to get the license, people need to be registered as owners of a private limited company (PLC) and meet all application requirements. The mandatory sum to be paid-up for a registered PLC is approximately £9033 (RM50,000), which is way beyond anything a simple YouTuber, TikTok user or anyone uploading videos to social media platforms could afford. The announcement also will negatively affect students who are enrolled in a Distance Learning course and require the use of videos as part of their education.
Lawmaker Fahmi Fadzil wondered whether this new rule is put in place “as selective prosecution.” Indeed it looks as if the requirement of a filmmaking license is aimed to eliminate dissenting opinions in media, and it wouldn’t be the first time the Malaysian Government has used legal tools to control what goes on in the press and enforce actions against the media with a clear political motivation.
Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of opposition in Malaysia said, “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.”
Since last week, after the resulting public outcry, the Malaysian Government has backtracked on the ruling and announced that they would be amending the new law. Saifuddin Abdullah made a statement to reassure the crowds, saying “social media users such as those of TikTok, YouTube are free to use the platforms to produce and upload videos as usual without the need to apply for a licence or fear being charged under the Finas Act.”
Malaysia’s political landscape is highly-charged at the moment. In all likelihood, after the initial reactions to the ruling, the Government most likely decided that they cannot afford their citizens accusing them of criminalising everyone in the country who uses a smartphone or posts videos on social media. It remains to be seen however what the impact of the FINAS license will have on the filmmaking industry in the future.
Words by Regina Toth
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