Amend Finas Act before action against Al-Jazeera, says Kluang MP

KLUANG: Muhyiddin’s government should not use the 22(1) Finas Act 1981 against Al-Jazeera until the amendment to the law is passed in Parliament, says Member of Parliament for Kluang Wong Shu Qi. The MP raised this issue in a statement and added that the confusion over the Finas licensing became clearer after Minister of Communication and Multimedia Saifuddin Abdullah admitted in a statement much later, that the law on this matter is outdated. She said, earlier, Saifuddin Abdullah’s answer in Parliament was confusing because he was trying to justify the government’s action in using the law to retaliate against Al-Jazeera. With subsequent statements from the minister and the cabinet, it is now clear that the government will not use it on individual users and the law needs to be amended to adapt to our social media era. Wong said she welcomes the cabinet’s decision to amend this outdated law that was enacted nearly 40 years ago. However, since the government has already admitted that the law is outdated and needed to be amended, it should not hold Al-Jazeera against it. If the content produced by Al-Jazeera is defamatory to Malaysia, the government can take action against the news outlet using laws which deal with defamation. It is just wrong to use technicalities such as filming license to persecute a news agency which it says has criticised the government, Wong said. The government should respond with facts if what Al Jazeera reported was inaccurate, instead of using brute force over technicalities. Following the Minister’s statement, the chairman of Finas, Zakaria Abdul Hamid further muddled the situation when he said that filming of documentaries will still require Finas license. To this, Wong said, the problem with such laws in this age of smartphones is immediately obvious – videomaking is no longer limited to professionals. Hence, she asks: Does the licensing law apply to personal documentaries by social media users, perhaps uploaded to YouTube? Will such users be fined if they fail to comply? Wong lays the cards on the table and says both the government and opposition agree that the Finas Act 1981 is outdated. The law needs to be updated to deal with the contemporary context. Thus, before the amendments are made, the government should stop using the act against those in the non-film industry to assure everyone that their freedom of expression will not be compromised.

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