Comms Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has become an instant sensation for saying that even social media users are subject to film licensing laws under the National Film Development Corporation.

In other news, face masks are, from next month, gonna be the next trendy fashion accessory; and, allegations of attempts to turn Sabah government reps from princes into frogs are gaining ground.

'Sensational' Saifuddin

Un-social media threat

We’re willing to bet our life savings that when Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah woke up yesterday, he had no idea of the shitstorm he’d face during the day.
 
It began in the morning, in the Dewan Rakyat, when in answering a question about National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) licences, Saifuddin created a commotion when he said all media, both traditional and social, must apply for licences and filming certs in order to shoot videos. The minister then followed this up by saying – in response to another query – that he’d let the authorities determine if YouTuber Dustin Pfundheller, who’d produced a video countering Al Jazeera’s Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown news documentary, had a FINAS licence for his vid.

Saifuddin’s statements suggested that ANYONE who produces videos, be they on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or wherever else, would need licences for their “productions” to not be illegal.

Wanna put up a YouTube video of your dog or FB Live your wife’s birthday party? Well, then you need a licence. And the rule applies to foreign tourists who upload travel vids too!

To be clear of breaking the law though, you’d need to be a Sdn Bhd with at least RM50,000 in paid up capital and have had your application for a licence from FINAS approved. 
 
The questions in the Dewan all came about, of course, after FINAS said that the footage used in the AJ documentary was, well, illegal because the news organisation didn’t have a licence. FINAS, and it must be said, the government, has come under fire for this as it means that any news org would have to have a licence before producing and airing any sort of video.
 
As expected, Saifuddin came in for a lot of brickbats and ridiculing after his answers, both in the House and outside. Among those who criticised him were PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil, who said the licensing requirements would have a far-reaching impact on Malaysia’s millions of social media users; former Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who asked if teachers who produced their own edu-films would have to get licensed as well; and other MPs who questioned whether young content creators, online classes and religious services needed licences too. 

Not to be left out from a chance to whack the government, Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim got in on the action as well, claiming that the government seemed intent on punishing everyone who deigned to publish content which was not in line with its views. 
 
Outspoken lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, meanwhile, pointed out that the FINAS Act was drafted to regulate the film industry, and not social media. Of course, he could have added that it wasn’t meant to regulate news production either. Content creators, on the other hand, said they feared for the future of the nation’s creative industry.

However, the best response came from the trolls online who really took the piss, pointing to a video of Saifuddin attending a youth event which he’d uploaded on Twitter and asking whether he had a FINAS licence for it. 
  
Let’s be clear, the FINAS law is an archaic law that doesn’t take into account changes in technology or even behaviour. You have to remember that the FINAS Act was passed in 1981, back when there was no social media and when you even needed a licence to own a personal TV or radio at home. There isn’t any requirement for licences for TVs and radios anymore, so likewise, this requirement should now go the way of the dinosaurs.
 
Anyway, after the huge outcry, Saifuddin made a U-turn later in the day, saying that the gomen does not intend to use the FINAS Act to stifle personal freedoms on social media. What he had done, he claimed, was merely explain the law as it stands. 
 
We’re sure that’s all you wanted to do, Mr Minister. But why in the world didn’t you say so in the first place? You could have made clear the gomen’s stand in your answer, if indeed that is the gomen’s stand. And, even if you fellows didn’t want to stifle social media freedom, isn’t the law being used now to stifle press freedom as in the case of AJ?
 
Anyways, now you’ve gone and raised the ire of millions of people and alienated younger voters, who are the bulk of social media users in the country. And thanks to this, there are people now calling for your resignation

It’s a pity too, sir. ’Cos you were always one of the more likeable politicians, even when you were with Umno.

Real superheroes wear masks

Thanks to the complacency some of us have been displaying, and the rising number of active Covid-19 cases in the country, the government has decided to make it mandatory, beginning next month, for face masks to be worn in crowded spaces and public transportation. 
 
The new ruling was announced by Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday. However, there were already quite a few indications prior to Izzy’s official announcement that mandatory masking would soon be introduced, including Prime Minister Moo Yassin’s televised speech on Monday, a statement by the Deputy Health Minister two days earlier with regard to authorities working on gazetting a mask order as well as the announcement of a new ceiling price for masks (they’re going down by 30 sen a piece to RM1.20!).
 
Anyhow, while groups such as the Malaysian Medical Association and the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy have lauded the government’s move, we have to ask why there aren’t more details on the ruling. For example, what constitutes “crowded spaces”? Also, is this rule a blanket one that means that we have to have masks on whenever we’re doing stuff out of our homes, like jogging in the park or playing tennis? 
 
Really, what the government needs to do is come up with clear guidelines. And we really hope we won’t have to wait till the regulations are eventually gazetted to know what it all means ’cos last thing anyone needs is to be issued a fine by overzealous policemen for swimming without masks on!
 
Anyways, with regard the country’s Covid-19 stats, the number of new cases yesterday actually dropped to single digits again, with just nine infections, only three of which are imported. Of the local transmissions though, three are from Sarawak, which has become a disease hotbed of sorts. No deaths were reported, fortunately, while eight people were discharged. 
 
What is deeply worrying, however, is that the number of active cases has roughly doubled to 143 from what it was on July 9, with the disease’s R-naught rating now at 1.36 from a previous low of 0.3. The R-naught rating is basically, a system that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is, which is why Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has warned that if the figure rises some more to 1.6, we could expect an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases over a short period of time. 
 
Noor Hisham said a team of Health Ministry experts would monitor the situation in Sarawak, noting the possibility of the entire state being placed under Enhanced MCO if things worsen.
 
On the latest victims, meanwhile, one of those who tested positive for Covid-19 in Sarawak is an employee of the state Election Office. The new infection has, thus, caused the office to be temporarily shut. Elsewhere, Kelantan is now no more a “green” state after it recorded its first case since May 1. 
 
In other news, public health groups say they are satisfied with Putrajaya’s messaging in its efforts to tackle Covid-19 and by and large, we have to agree. Yes, certain things could be better (see above on “crowded spaces” and masks). However, generally speaking, we can’t fault the efforts that’ve been taken.
 
Even so, you do have to wonder if the current uptick in infections could have been avoided if we hadn’t decided to enter into Recovery Movement Control Order phase as quickly as we did. Also Malaysians can be a stubborn lot. So strict regulations and better enforcement could have helped.

Coup on the way in Sabah?

Another “massive” coup attempt has apparently been made to topple the Warisan-led Sabah state government.
 
Parti Warisan Sabah chairman Liew Vui Keong claimed that at least a dozen of his party’s assemblymen have been induced to switch sides in what is being described as a “second wave” of attempts to dethrone the state government. As it stands though, the party still controls more than two-thirds of the state assembly. 
 
Liew aside, Sepanggar MP Azis Jamman, in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, also claimed that attempts were being made to get Warisan elected reps to frog it over to Perikatan Nasional. Azis claimed that a message had been sent to Kota Belud MP Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis from someone saying Sabah was about to change hands and that he had been instructed by “number one” to get in touch with her with an offer. Unfortunately for all of us, Azis never mentioned who’d sent the message, nor who “number one” was/is. 
 
This is not the first time claims have been made with regard to Perikatan attempting to take Sabah. Among the previous rumours were that former Chief Minister Musa Aman was engineering a takeover bid, while several Sabah DAP reps also claiming they were offered as much as RM15 million to katak it to Perikatan. 
 
But just how true are these allegations? Well, according to this sources story, Musa has already obtained the agreement of 14 Sabah reps to switch over to Perikatan. Fourteen reps, incidentally, would be just one short of the number needed for Perikatan to take over the state. 
 
All this enticing of frogs, though, has led the Sabah chapter of Bersih 2.0 to issue a statement condemning such moves. It also urged the Sabah government to use its two-thirds majority in the assembly to curb party-hopping by introducing recall elections
 
Be that as it all may, Sabah Opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan has pooh-poohed claims of a coup attempt, saying Warisan and Sabah DAP reps should “keep their egos in check” and stop spinning far-fetched stories. He hinted that this was all just a case of paranoia, adding that Warisan had resorted to “hiding” their elected reps to keep them from leaving. Cheeky bugger! 
 
Meanwhile, the sons of former minister Anifah Aman are threatening to sue a Sabah assistant minister and a news portal for claiming they were involved in attempts to get several assemblymen to leave the ruling coalition. Daddy-o has also come to their defence, saying that he will sue the assistant minister. 
 
Anyhoo, here are a few other politics-related news items which appeared yesterday:

  • Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reiterated that he may form a new political party should the courts decide on Aug 7 against his appeal to nullify his removal from Bersatu.
     
  • That’s not the only court case Mads is hoping to win, though. Our favourite nonagenarian and four other MPs have filed an originating summons seeking to challenge the appointments of Azhar “Art” Harun and Azalina Othman Said as Dewan Rakyat Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively.
     
  • There seems to be more trouble in paradise for Perikatan as a Selangor BN man has warned Senior Minister (Economy) Azmin Ali that his political future could be in danger if he does not improve ties with Umno and PAS. 
     
  • But it’s all still good within Perikatan, according to a Bersatu-linked think tank. It claims a survey shows that one in two Malaysians would vote for Umno and PAS in an election, with Pakatan set to lose its urban foothold.
     
  • PAS, meanwhile, says it is willing to consider letting go of its stand that it should contest all its parliamentary seats in Terengganu, all for the greater glory of the ruling coalition, of course. 

Bits and bobs

Here are some other news items which we thought we should mention in brief:

  • The MACC has submitted its initial report to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) with regard to complaints against PM Moo over a purported audio recording in which he apparently says that Umno MPs could be enticed to join Bersatu if they were offered ministerships or GLC positions. The commission says it’s awaiting further instructions on the matter.
     
  • Meanwhile, the graft busters added that they will submit investigation papers on the Penang undersea tunnel project to the AGC soon. 
     
  • More on the MACC. The staff of several telco companies are being investigated for allegedly collaborating with a syndicate by accepting bribes to reveal personal data of these telcos’ customers. 
     
  • The Election Commission has set Aug 29 for polling in the Slim by-election following the death of its assemblyman. Nomination day has been set for Aug 15. 
     
  • The government is mulling setting up a task force to monitor alcohol sales following a recent spate of fatal drink-driving incidents. Say it ain’t so. 
     
  • Work on the Penang South Reclamation project will not be allowed to begin until its environmental management plan is approved by the Department of Environment, the Dewan Rakyat was told. 
     
  • Rubber glove maker Top Glove – which, at the start of the year, was languishing at the bottom of the stock market – is now, amazingly, the second most valuable stock in Malaysia, overtaking Public Bank. 

“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under."

- H.L. Mencken -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Britain and the United States have accused Russia of having a space weapon! The two allies claim a Russian satellite “fired” a projectile capable of targeting other satellites. Is this the beginning of Star Wars? 
     
  • The Chinese consul-general in Houston has demanded proof that his consulate had engaged in spying following an order by the US for the consular office to be closed. Meanwhile, the FBI claims that China is harbouring a military-linked fugitive scientist at another consulate in San Francisco.
     
  • The number of Covid-19 cases in the US has surpassed four million in a rapid acceleration of infections. While it took the country 98 days to hit the one million mark, it has taken just 16 to get from three to four million.
     
  • In a case of art imitating life, the latest season of Grey’s Anatomy, the TV programme’s 17th, will cover the Covid-19 pandemic. Talk about being real.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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