Friday, October 15, 2010

Indonesia's book banning law over-turned, sort of...

UPDATE: Australian Broadcasting's PM program has a new report where Indonesian artists discuss a climate of censorship where "their works were increasingly banned, attacked and even destroyed, usually by religious groups" as police stand by. One artist is quoted: "as Indonesia has become more democratic, post-Suharto, there's less artistic freedom."

On Wednesday, Indonesia's constitutional court has over-turned the Attorney General's unilateral power to ban books.
"The 1963 Law on Securing Printed Materials whose content could disrupt public order is against the constitution," Court Chief Mahfud MD said. "The law is no longer legally binding."
An editorial in the Jakarta Globe, praised the ruling but said
The ruling, however, is not a total victory for freedom of thought in this country. The AGO can still secure a ban or confiscate books but it will have to apply to the court for a ruling in its favor...  Indonesia still has laws that allow the state to restrict freedom of speech, such as the Anti-Pornography Law and the 1965 Blasphemy Law.... Also, the government can apply for a court to temporarily ban a book until due legal process has been completed to decide if the book should legally be banned in the longer term.
The 50-year old law had been used 22 times to ban books on West Papua, religion, the events of 1965, which brought the Suharto dictatorship to power,  among other topics.

UPI reported:
In February this year, author John Roosa, upon learning that his own book concerning Suharto's coup in 1965 had been banned, wrote that he was surprised Indonesia still censored so many publications.

"When I first heard that the translation of my book, 'Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto's Coup d'Etat' was banned, I had a deja vu," he wrote.

"It was like I was still living in the era of Suharto when every printed material was censored, when college students were charged for reading books authored by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, when a lot of my friends were working anonymously and moving underground in the fight against the dictator."