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

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A day after saying social media users would need to obtain a license before posting videos, Malaysia’s government abruptly abandoned the move, which critics said could have undermined freedom of expression.

FILE PHOTO: Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Joseph Sipalan

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

In a statement on Friday, 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 license or fear of persecution by FINAS,” Saifuddin said, referring to the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS).

The opposition had called the idea of social media users requiring licenses to post videos “unreasonable and backwards”.

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,” Saifuddin said.

Over 80% 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 licenses for people who just want to upload a video of a birthday party when their child turns two,” 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.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan, Liz Lee and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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