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After backlash, Malaysia makes U-turn on licences for social media videos

[KUALA LUMPUR] A day after saying social media users would need to obtain a licence before posting videos, Malaysia's government abruptly abandoned the move, which critics said could have undermined freedom of expression.

Expanding a decades old-law on video production, Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Thursday that licences were needed for videos to be published on social and traditional media platforms.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Saifuddin said the cabinet had decided against that move.

"Social media users are free to use existing platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and the like, including producing and uploading videos as normal without the need to apply for a licence or fear of persecution by FINAS," Mr Saifuddin said, referring to the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS).

The opposition had called the idea of social media users requiring licences to post videos "unreasonable and backwards".

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Malaysia will amend the law on films and videos.

"The government of Malaysia stresses its position to support the principles of media freedom and individual freedom on social media," Mr Saifuddin said.

Over 80 per cent of Malaysia's 32 million population are active social media users, according to the Digital 2020 report by We Are Social and Hootsuite.

Jin Lim, the owner and host of popular Malaysian YouTube channel JinnyBoyTV, said imposing archaic licensing conditions would have killed the local content creation industry.

"I understand we need laws against say slander, but they shouldn't require licences for people who just want to upload a video of a birthday party when their child turns two," Mr Lim told Reuters when contacted.

Rights groups have accused Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's government of stifling dissent after a series of clampdowns against critics of his four-month-old administration.

A contempt case was brought against a local news portal over readers' comments. Broadcaster Al Jazeera is being investigated for a report on the arrest of migrants, which authorities said was inaccurate, misleading and unfair.


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