The Indonesian Government says it finds the new Australian film about the Balibo Five newsmen offensive but it's up to the country's censors to decide if it should be banned.
Indonesia's military has urged the country's censorship board,
the LSF, to ban Balibo , which depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering five Australia-based newsmen in the East Timor border town in 1975.
Foreign affairs ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah today said he believed the film, which is
in the running to be shown at the next Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFF), was offensive: I don't think rational people would like to see such an offensive movie shown in our country, because it only opens the old wounds. And it won't be good
for the interests of the Indonesian people.
Faizasyah said the film, which contradicts the official Indonesian explanation that the journalists were accidentally killed in crossfire, could spark confusion.
Indonesian debate about the
film follows the Australian Federal Police's (AFP) announcement this week that it will conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the Balibo killings. The decision has reignited diplomatic tensions between Australia and Indonesia, which believes the
case should remain closed. The AFP probe comes almost two years after a coronial inquest concluded Indonesian forces deliberately killed the journalists to cover up their invasion of East Timor.
Indonesian censors have formed a special team to decide whether to allow the politically sensitive Australian movie about the Balibo Five to be shown in the country.
The Indonesian government has declared Robert Connolly's Balibo offensive and the Indonesian military has urged the country's censorship board, the LSF, to ban it.
The movie depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering five
Australia-based newsmen in the East Timor border town in 1975. It contradicts the official Indonesian explanation they were killed in crossfire.
The organisers of the Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFF), which kicks off next month, want to
show the movie despite the possible controversy it could generate. They have submitted the movie to the LSF, which has formed a special team to decide whether the thriller is too politically sensitive for Indonesian audiences.
Indonesia's journalists have vowed to defy a ban on the screening of Australian movie Balibo , saying the film depicting alleged war crimes by Indonesian forces in East Timor is educational.
The film directed by Robert Connolly and starring
Anthony LaPaglia was banned without explanation on Tuesday hours before it was due to premier in Indonesia at a private showing for the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club.
It depicts the alleged murder of five Australian-based journalists by
invading Indonesian forces in the East Timorese border town of Balibo in 1975.
Indonesia claims the reporters -- two Australians, two Britons and a New Zealander -- were killed in crossfire and has refused to cooperate with an Australian war
crimes investigation launched this year.
Alliance of Independent Journalists head Nezar Patria said its members had been invited to a screening Thursday night at Utan Kayu Theatre in Jakarta, regardless of the ban.
The film, which opened in
Australia in July, was also scratched at the last minute from the programme for the Jakarta International Film Festival starting next week.
Censors have yet to comment publicly on their decision to ban the film, but Foreign Minister Marty
Natalegawa told parliament on Wednesday it was meant to protect the country's global image.
Military spokesman Sagom Tamboen told AFP: This is very hurtful to us. We believe the journalists died in crossfire. We thank the censorship board for
its decision to ban Balibo in Indonesia.
Prolonging the debate over the Film Censor Institute's (LSF) ban on Balibo - the Australian film about the killings of five Western journalists in then East Timor in 1975 - the House of Representatives Commission X on arts and cultural affairs is
planning to summon Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik and LSF officials for questioning.
Eko Hendro Purnomo, a member of the commission from the National Mandate Party (PAN), said the government had overreacted with its decision to ban the
movie: It's paranoia. There has never been a movie in the history of the world that led to the disintegration of a nation .
Kemal Stamboel, chairman of House Commission I on defense and foreign affairs, praised the LSF's ban, saying it had
its own standard to review a movie that bothers our people .
The Indonesia Film Censorship Agency's decision to ban the Australian movie Balibo early this month appears to have backfired, with stores all over the capital selling the pirated version of the film over the weekend.
Firman, a movie lover,
said that until recently he had never even heard of the movie, which tells of the deaths of five journalists, allegedly at the hands of Indonesian soldiers during the 1975 invasion of East Timor. I only found out about the movie after the National
Film Censorship Board [LSF] banned it. I don't even know what the movie is about. I must admit that I bought the pirated version because of the ban, he told the Jakarta Globe.
Ayu, a shopkeeper who sells pirated DVDs, said demand for the movie
was high. We just received the movie on [Sunday] morning and we've sold more than 40 copies, she said. We are already short on stock, so we quickly ordered a hundred more copies.
Prior to the ban, Balibo had a very small market,
primarily attracting curious expatriates, journalists and hard core movie buffs.
The pirated version of the movie is reportedly decent in quality with accurate subtitles.
group has threatened to fight a ban on the war movie Balibo with a constitutional court challenge if the Indonesian government enforces its countrywide prohibition.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists has been showing the banned movie
in venues around the country, and sales of pirated DVDs are flourishing without police interference in markets in the capital, Jakarta.
Police spokesman Col. Untung Ketut Yoga said the government ban cannot be enforced until police receive written
confirmation of its terms from the government.
Andreas Harsono, founder of the alliance, said the journalists will lodge a constitutional court challenge if the government takes the next step of enforcing the ban, which was instituted Dec. 1.
The constitutional court has previously lifted bans on five politically sensitive films about East Timor and Indonesia's restive Aceh province that prevented their screenings at the 2006 Jakarta film festival. A lawyer who helped win those challenges,
Christiana Chelsia Chan, said she believed the Balibo ban was similarly unconstitutional.
Film festival director Lalu Roisamri, who submitted Balibo to the censors, welcomed the prospect of the court appeal. He said freedom of speech was
going backward in Indonesia: I'm afraid so, because I think the government is paranoid, Roisamri said.
Connolly said he had given copyright permission to the alliance to screen his movie, but that the DVDs being sold in markets were
illegal. He said he had been naively optimistic that the government censors would allow the movie to be screened at commercial cinemas.
Indonesian journalists will appeal the country's decision to ban the Australian film Balibo .
Indonesia's Film Censorship Agency banned Robert Connolly's acclaimed film in December due to its political content.
Based on the true
story, the film depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering five Australia-based newsmen in the East Timorese border town in 1975, contradicting the official explanation they were killed in crossfire.
Indonesia's Independent Journalist Alliance
(AJI) has defied the ban, risking jail terms and heavy fines by staging a series of free public screenings across the country.
AJI has this week decided to go one step further by formally challenging the ban in Indonesia's State Management Court,
which deals with complaints against state institutions.
In a democracy, the right to create art should not be forbidden, AJI lawyer Hendrayana, said: And as we've seen from the AJI screenings, this film does not create problems. It shows
the ban is just paranoia.
The Jakarta chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists have filed a lawsuit against the Indonesian Censorship Institute for its decision to ban the film Balibo .
Hendrayana, executive director of the Legal Aid Center for the
Press (LBH Pers), which is representing AJI Jakarta in proceedings at the State Administrative Court, said the ban was a violation of the public's right to information.
In early December, the censorship institute, also know as the LSF,
banned the film, which tells the story of five Australian journalists killed when Indonesian troops took over the border town of Balibo in East Timor in October 1975. A sixth journalist died weeks later when Indonesian forces invaded Dili.
Hendrayana said the LSF had no clear reason to ban the film and officials' worries that its screening might hurt bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia had proved to be unfounded.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has previously said the restriction was to protect the country's image abroad. Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik has said the film was not fit to be screened and could damage relations between Indonesia,
East Timor and Australia.
Update: Australian media call to put Balibo ban on presidential agenda
Australia's Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has asked Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to raise the banning of Robert Connolly's film Balibo with Indonesian President Susilo Bamban Yudhoyono during his visit to Australia this
The fact that the government of Dr Yudhoyono will not even allow the film to be shown to the Indonesian public suggests that this matter is far from resolved, said MEAA's federal secretary Christopher Warren.
As far as this
country's community of journalists is concerned, the failure of Indonesian power holders to acknowledge and take appropriate action for what happened in Balibo in 1975 represents an important barrier to the development of full and cordial relations
between Australia and Indonesia.
The wife of an Australian reporter allegedly killed by Indonesian forces in East Timor in 1975 said she trusted the Indonesian people to make up their own minds about what happened.
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Greg Shackleton,
is in Jakarta to testify before a court that is hearing a petition against the government's banning of the movie Balibo last year.
Asked what she thought of Indonesia's claims that her husband and four other Australia-based reporters were
accidentally killed in crossfire rather than executed in cold blood, she said: That's been rubbish for 35 years . They were just doing their job like you are.
Balibo , starring Anthony LaPaglia, tells the story of the
five journalists killed when Indonesian troops overran the East Timorese town of Balibo in October, 1975, and a sixth who died later in the full-scale assault on Dili. Jakarta has always maintained that the so-called Balibo Five died in crossfire
as Indonesian troops fought East Timorese Fretilin rebels.
Indonesia banned the film but groups including the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) have launched a legal challenge against the censors' decision.
A film should never be banned in a country which is a democracy. Any organisation that tried to ban what the people want to see is making a mockery of democracy. This is about the film and the rights of
the people here to watch, think, believe and say what they want, not what the government wants them to do. This film lets the cat out of the bag, you can't keep it quiet any longer, the cat escapes. They have made a problem if they want to censor the
film. I trust the Indonesian people to make up their own mind.
Jakarta State Administrative Court upheld the film censor's ban on the Australian feature film Balibo , labelling the film sensitive .
A panel of judges ruled that the Film Censorship Board (LSF) had fulfilled the required
administrative procedures to ban the controversial film.
The court agreed with the LSF's argument that the film could reopen old wounds .
Balibo recounts the story of five Australian-based journalists who were killed during the
invasion of the town of Balibo in Timor Leste in 1975.
The LSF banned the film on the grounds that it depicted violence and that the film had only used Australian and Timor Leste sources, a matter that concerned the Indonesian government. The
military has been particularly sensitive on the topic.