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New filming rules in Malaysia not a censorship attempt, says minister

All filming in Malaysia now requires a licence from the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), with producers having to inform FINAS seven days prior to filming.

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah

said that the July 23 ruling was an update of previous regulatory policies, and the government has defined filming 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. 

A day after announcing that the decision did not differentiate between traditional broadcasting and those uploaded to social media, the minister clarified that a licence to film will not be required for social networking sites.

According to the guidelines on licence application listed on the FINAS website, applicants must also be registered as owners of a private limited company with a paid-up capital of at least RM50,000 (US$12,000).

In the past, FINAS served as the regulatory authority for the development of the film industry, including production, distribution and exhibition of film content, as well as issuing licences for films in Malaysia.

The decision has sowed confusion and sparked an outcry from critics who see the ruling as a form of control and censorship, but Minister Saifuddin stressed that the decision was taken to ensure that filming laws, which was last set in 1981, are “applicable to modern times” and the government has no intention of stifling freedom of expression.

The ruling however comes in the wake of Qatari state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera showing a July 3 documentary Locked Up in Malaysia Lockdown which featured undocumented migrant workers in the country being arrested or going into hiding during the imposition of the country’s Movement Control Order (MCO).

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