Subject: `Balibo' Ban Will Not Hurt Indonesia: Foreign Minister

The Jakarta Post [web site]

December 3, 2009

`Balibo' Ban Will Not Hurt Indonesia: FM

by Lilian Budianto

The Indonesian government anticipates an international backlash over its recent ban on the screening of the movie Balibo, but expects this will not hurt Jakarta's overall image, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says.

"We hope the ban will not have an adverse impact on international perceptions of Indonesia. The international community will understand our position if we explain it to them well," Marty said Wednesday on the sidelines of a hearing with members of House Commission I.

The Film Censorship Board banned the Australian movie, which is based on the story of the death of five Australia-based journalists in the former Indonesian province of East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1975.

While the producers of the movie claim the film is based on historical facts, it has been shunned by the Indonesian government as "fictitious".

One member of the censorship board (who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media) told the Associated Press the movie was banned because it "discredits Indonesia".

Indonesian Military spokesman Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen said the screening of the movie here would only jeopardize relations between Indonesia and Australia. Indonesia claims the Balibo case is closed, saying that the journalists were killed accidentally in a battlefield.

In September, the Australian Federal Police reopened investigations into the deaths in a move defined by Indonesia as "digging into past mistakes", risking relations between the two countries. Roy Suryo, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party, defended the ban, saying such censorship could be used to ban any foreign movies that stood against government or public interests.

Another lawmaker, Tantowi Yahya of the Golkar Party, said any movie that potentially hurt Indonesia's sovereignty, created racial tension or wrongly targeted governmental institutions should not be screened here, since it would bring no benefit to either the community or government.

"This movie is only one side of the story of what happened and not a consensus... For whatever purposes, the movie should not be screened here," said the lawmaker.

Balibo was originally scheduled to be screened at the 11th Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFFest) but the screening was cancelled after the festival committee received notification of the ban on Tuesday.

In 2006, the same censorship body banned four documentary films about the life of people in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Timor Leste during the 8th JIFFest, citing that the films were "disturbing".

On the JIFFest, the festival organizers said Balibo would be replaced by (500) Days of Summer, and that people who had already bought tickets could watch the replacement movie or claim a refund.

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