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Short of admitting I have been newsbombed with the Tourism case, SRC, Loan Moratorium and Sabah shockers every day of this week, I need to revisit what happened last week which could have gone south of Mentakab very fast. 

UMNO-PKR-Bersatu, BN-PH-PN stalwart Dato’ Saifuddin bin Abdullah who’s Minister of Communications and Multimedia got global headlines with a move that startled many of his alumni at MCKK.

Said to be a progressive thinker the Mentakab-born politician even led a demonstration against his abusive headmaster when he was head boy in Standard 6. A campus politician in his university days, and a “mandi sungai” boy his street creds impressed many.

On a move to reduce corruption and save the government money, he once said, “We don’t have to go witch-hunting because there would be no end to that.”

But his announcement last week was anything but cool.

He gabra everyone and the media world by fishing out a law in the face of digitalization, just after four months into office. He cited the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) Act 1981 which mandated that both “mainstream and personal media” needed a licence to publish films on “social media and traditional channels”.

“We don’t have to go witch-hunting because there would be no end to that.”

Saifuddin Abdullah

This sent content creators, including my YouTube loving Labrador into a tailspin.

The Indera Mahkota MP, initially took aim at the Al-Jazeera documentary Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown and whether it was licensed by the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) before it began production.

But this soon bloomed into a parliamentary fracas, involving his colleagues in the previous ruling coalition.

“The bizarre licensing requirement imposed on shooting videos for news coverage is a blatant violation of press freedom and the right to information,” said Ravi R Prasad, advocacy director for Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI).

While YBM was adamant at first, a massive online backlash forced him to announce that the law would not be used on individual social media users whether on TikTok, YouTube or other platforms.

“The bizarre licensing requirement imposed on shooting videos for news coverage is a blatant violation of press freedom and the right to information,”

Ravi R Prasad

He also added that the government of the day supported media freedom, and would be updating the 39-year-old law.

FINAS chairperson Zakaria Abdul Hamid chipped in skillfully, “Documentaries will require licences but news coverage no need.”

He seemed to encourage news agencies to apply for the licence, which needs to be renewed annually and can be denied or revoked by FINAS without explanation nor can the decision be challenged in court.

FINAS Chairman Dato Hans Isaac, whose contract terminated two months ago Facebooked some sage advice, “I honestly say that I think YBM KKMM didn’t get the right advice from FINAS before answering questions in Parliament regarding this.”

From whimsical to whimper overnight, I think people were shocked with the audacity of it all above anything else. 

“Documentaries will require licences but news coverage no need.”

Zakaria Abdul Hamid

Just for the record, about 5 billion videos are uploaded to YouTube globally every day. You can work out the Malaysia numbers and imagine every Malaysian doing nothing else but checking on uploads.

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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

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