Subject: Activists Call for End to Book Banning

also Govt Studying Books Seen as Possible Threat To Public Order , AGO defends banning of five books

The Jakarta Globe

January 9, 2010

Activists Call for End to Book Banning

by Heru Andriyanto

A group of prominent activists on Friday demanded the Attorney General's Office put an end to the controversial policy of banning politically sensitive books.

"Banning books constitutes a violation of the human rights recognized in the 1945 Constitution and is against the universal declaration of human rights," said Jaleswari Pramodawardhani, a senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

"In a democratic country, restrictions should apply only to books that clearly spread racial and sectarian hatred, war propaganda or violence," she said, reading a statement signed by 82 lawyers, human rights activists, senior journalists and clerics.

Any publication restrictions should be decided in a fair trial, the group said. The signatories include renowned lawyers and rights campaigners Adnan Buyung Nasution and Todung Mulya Lubis, senior journalist Goenawan Muhammad and noted rights activists Patra M Zen and Usman Hamid.

The AGO last month banned five books that were described as "having the potential to erode public confidence in the government, cause moral decadence or disturb the national ideology, economy, culture and security."

The five, all written in Bahasa Indonesia, include two left-wing books, "The September 30 Mass Killing and Coup by Suharto" and "Lekra Doesn't Burn Books."

Three religious books are also being examined: "Church Voice for the Suffering People: No More Blood and Tears in West Papua," "Six Ways to God" and "Uncover the Mystery of Religious Diversity."

AGO spokesman Didiek Darmanto said the ban was not meant to restrict the freedom to express opinions. "The ban is imposed on the publishers, not the writers of the books. Those five books must not be distributed or reprinted, but the AGO doesn't ban people from expressing their opinion," he said.

According to a law issued in 1963, the AGO has the authority to control publications for public order. The AGO is therefore "breaking no rules" in banning publications if they are considered harmful to public order, he said.

But bans can only be issued following a joint meeting of prosecutors, police and officials from the National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry for Religious Affairs, the Ministry for National Education and the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.

During his 32-years of authoritarian rule, former President Suharto banned the publication of all left-wing books, based on a 1966 decree by the People's Consultative Assembly.

The decree states that the spread of communist teachings, in all forms, is strictly banned in the country. Suharto took the presidency in 1966 after a failed 1965 coup attempt blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party.

According to an AGO regulation issued in 1998, prosecutors may ban books that could "erode the government's authority or cause public disorder."

-- Additional reporting by Antara



January 5, 2010

Indonesian Govt Studying Books Seen as Possible Threat To Public Order

Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar on Monday said that a special team has been given two weeks to study a number of books that are deemed to potentially pose a threat to the unity of the nation.

"The team just started working today [Monday] to study those books and I have asked the team [to complete their work] within 15 days at the latest," Patrialsi told journalists at the presidential office.

He said that the results of the study would then be discussed at a meeting of Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs officials "to decide on the next steps."

He declined to say whether the next steps would include blacklisting the books, saying, "we are not yet talking about banning."

Patrialsi said that there were more than 20 books that would be looked at by the team. The books, he said, were related their perceived negative effect on "the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia [NKRI]"

"We love NKRI, we love the nation," Patrialsi said. "The books would be studied to see whether they threatened the NKRI, for example, by denying that Indonesia was a unitary state."

He declined to give further details, including giving the titles of the books being examined or their authors, saying that was not necessary because "the study process is still ongoing and therefore no decisions have been made yet."

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Mahfud MD, said that NGO activists could seek a judicial review of the articles or laws that concerned bans on books that could cause public disorder.

He said that such demands for a review would be processed by the court.

Efendi Ghazali, from the Coalition of the Civilian Society Against Corruption (Kompak), said his organization was planning to file several judicial reviews to the Constitutional Court.

One of them, Efendi said, was related to the use of the 1963 law on "measures for print products with contents considered harmful to public order."

Efendi, who is also a communication expert of the University of Indonesia, said that law had been used by the government as a basis for banning books deemed to cause unrest among the general populace.

The banning of books, Efendi said, was regrettable especially since Indonesia was now widely regarded as one of the world's largest democracies.

The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has also sent a letter to the Attorney General's Office concerning its recent ban on several books deemed to cause anxiety among the people.

The organization said that the letter was sent to the AGO last Tuesday.

In the letter, Kontras deplored a move by Attorney General Hendarman Supandji to ban the circulation of five books deemed to disturb public order, including, "Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto's Coup d'Etat in Indonesia" by John Roosa.

According to Kontras, the move by the AGO was reminiscent of President Suharto's New Order regime.


From Joyo

The Jakarta Post

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

AGO defends banning of five books

Dicky Christanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Attorney General's Office has insisted John Roosa's famous book on the September 30th Movement and Soeharto's coup d'etat has 143 crucial points that led to its being banned.

"We won't go into details on the reasons because the public, especially at the lower levels may react in a way that could open the way for conflicts," AGO spokesperson Didiek Darmanto told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday when asked for legal justifications for the book banning.

Roosa's book Dalih Pembunuhan Massal Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Soeharto (Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Soeharto's Coup d'Etat) offers an alternative perspective to the mainstream version that places the blame for the September 30th Movement on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The book alleges the abortive movement was actually Soeharto's way of seizing power from founding president Sukarno.

The documentary film on the Sept. 30th Movement depicting the Soeharto- led Army Strategic Reserve Force's role in wiping out the alleged abortive coup, had been screened annually by state-run television station TVRI during Soeharto's 32-year reign, sending the message that the coup was launched by the now-defunct PKI.

Roosa's is one of five books that have been banned by the government because, despite the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, "their publication could disrupt public order."

The four other banned books are Cocratez Sofyan Yoman's Suara Gereja bagi Umat Tertindas Penderitaan Tetesan Darah dan Cucuran Air Mata Umat Tuhan di Papua Barat Harus Diakhiri, Rhoma Dwi Aria Yuliantri and Muhidin M. Dahlan's Lekra Tak Membakar Buku: Suara Senyap Lembar Kebudayaan Harian Rakjat 1950-1965, Darmawan's Enam Jalan Menuju Tuhan and Syahrudin Ahmad's Mengungkap Misteri Keberagaman Agama.

Asked about violating the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, Didik defended the AGO's authority to ban the publication and circulation of printed materials that were subjectively determined to threaten public order.

He ironically said the AGO respected freedom of expression but that the ban was based on considerations from institutions including several ministries, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

Didiek said the ban was not permanent and could be reviewed, given the appropriate situation.

"Several books were banned during the New Order regime but were reprinted once we entered the reform era," he added.

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