Finas: Al Jazeera Has No Licence to Film Controversial Documentary

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Al Jazeera International (M) Sdn Bhd did not have the Film Production Licence or the Filming Authentication Certificate (SPP) to produce the controversial documentary ‘Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown’, according to the National Film Development Corporation (Finas).

In a statement issued today, Finas said this was revealed by the findings of its initial investigation after the documentary went viral on social media.

As such, Finas said it would give full cooperation to the police, which are currently investigating the company under Section 22 (1) of the Finas Act 1981 (Amendment 2013) for carrying out film production activities without a valid licence from Finas.

Al Jazeera, prior to this, released a 25-minute 50-second documentary entitled ‘Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown’ that denounced treatments of illegal immigrants when Malaysia took steps to tackle Covid-19.


Police were reported to have recorded the statements from several employees of the company involved in the production of the documentary to assist in the investigation under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948, Section 500 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) condemned today the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s plan to review Al Jazeera’s accreditation and production licence over its controversial documentary.

CIJ called the move “alarming” and a form of state retaliation against the Qatar-based broadcaster for allegedly damaging Malaysia’s reputation.

“The State and its apparatus must also stop penalising the views of interviewees in the Al Jazeera documentary — a right that is enshrined in law and international human rights instruments relating to freedom of expression.

“We also urge the government to drop all investigations into Al Jazeera and for the Communication and Multimedia Minister to support media independence and freedom of the press — not be complicit in infringements on the right to information and freedom of expression,” it said in a statement.

CIJ was responding to yesterday’s announcement by Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah that the Information Department will be checking to see if Al Jazeera violated its accreditation conditions set by the National Film Development Corporation in the production of the documentary.

Yusof Mat Isa

Saifuddin warned that the government will cancel Al Jazeera’s licence and accreditation facilities if the broadcaster was found to have violated the rules.

CIJ decried the government’s management of the controversy, pointing out that it should counter the allegations in the documentary with verifiable facts and data instead of employing heavy-handed tactics initiating police investigations under the sedition law, communications and multimedia offences and criminal laws.

It claimed such an approach undermines press freedom in Malaysia, which would only hurt the country’s international standing further.

“This is all the more appalling as it comes just months after Malaysia recorded a jump on the World Press Freedom Index and further adding on to the list of freedom of expression infringements since the change of government this year,” it said.