Malaysia

Shouting match after minister accuses Pakatan of doing nothing to amend Finas Act

KUALA LUMPUR: A shouting match erupted in the Parliament after Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah accused his former Pakatan Harapan colleagues of doing nothing when they were in administration for 22 months.

The issue began when Wong Shu Qi (PH-Kluang) told the government not to abuse the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Act 1981 against Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, which had its KL office at G Tower raided by the authorities earlier on Tuesday (Aug 4).

“If you have admitted that the Finas Act is archaic, why use it against news reporting?” Wong questioned.

To this, Saifuddin responded saying that in the 22 months of the former Pakatan government, it had done nothing to amend the Finas Act.

Saifuddin said that he first answered the issue on July 23 morning and made a clarification the same evening.

“That very night, the Cabinet decided to give assurance to media and individual freedom on social media, including amending the Finas Act.

“We did it in 20 hours, but in 20 months you did nothing, ” said Saifuddin. Pakatan was in power for 22 months.

That appeared to trigger several Opposition lawmakers who stood up in protest.

Saifuddin then shot back at the Opposition, saying that the matter was being politicised.

“If you want a political answer, I’ll give you one. Imagine that the Malaysian public and frontliners have developed a symbiotic relationship.

“When there are people who accused the frontliners, bahkan cubit paha kanan, paha kiri akan terasa juga (it’s just like when you pinched your left thigh, but you feel pain on your right thigh as well), ” he said in reference to a popular Bahasa Malaysia idiom, which meant that an attack on the frontliners is an attack on all Malaysians.

However, he assured lawmakers that amendments to the Finas Act would be carried out and said the government remains committed to ensuring freedom of expression in social media.

On a separate issue, Saifuddin said the pro-tem committee of the Malaysian Media Council, which was set up last Jan 16, were given more time to complete their report towards the drafting of a media council bill.

“The draft of the final report has been completed and it was done in English. It’s now being translated into Bahasa Malaysia.

“A meeting will be held with the pro-tem committee soon.”

On Jan 16, it was reported that 17 representatives from the print, electronic and online media, local and foreign media, journalist associations and NGOs were appointed as members of the pro-tem committee.

Former communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo previously said the appointment of the 17 members was the first step taken in line with Pakatan’s GE14 manifesto to form a media council comprising leading members of the media fraternity.

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