Subject: ‘Balibo’ Ban Wins Rave Reviews From Indonesian Military

also Balibo "negative propaganda": Indonesia

The Jakarta Globe

December 3, 2009

Balibo' Ban Wins Rave Reviews From Indonesian Military

by Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Putri Prameshwari

The banning of Australian film "Balibo" showed that there was no real democracy in Indonesia, film activists said on Wednesday, although government and military officials welcomed the ban.

Film director Riri Riza said that even though it was predictable, the ban showed that censorship was still rife in the nation despite its claims to democracy.

We have never moved away from [Suharto's] New Order era," he said. "At least in the context of film censorship."

Riri said that unless something was done, the National Film Censorship Board (LSF) would continue restricting films considered too controversial or critical.

The film tells the story of five journalists who were killed when the tiny border town of Balibo in East Timor was taken over by Indonesian forces in October 1975. A sixth journalist died weeks later when Dili was invaded by Indonesian forces.

The so-called Balibo Five, according to official Indonesian and Australian government accounts, died in the crossfire as Indonesian troops fought East Timorese Fretilin rebels.

Abduh Azis, chairman of the Indonesian Film Society, said the ban made it even clearer how the country was now facing a crisis in freedom of expression. "This is a serious problem," he said.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the restriction was to protect the country's image abroad.

What we have to be cautious of, is not to let this film affect the global perception of Indonesia. If it [the ban] is explained well, then I think there will be no problem," Marty told Agence France-Presse.

Balibo's director, Robert Connolly, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was disappointed by the censorship. "I had high hopes for the film and the impact it may have had if it had been screened in Indonesia."

The Indonesian Armed Forces said was fully behind the ban. Military spokesman Air Vice Marshall Sagom Tamboen said the movie would only reopen old wounds. It would harm the good relationship between Indonesia and East Timor, as well as between Indonesia and Australia, he said.

It is a correct decision for the LSF to ban the movie," Sagom said. "If the movie had been played, then it means that we justify their accusation that the military did shoot the journalists to death. For us, the Balibo case is over. The journalists were killed accidentally in crossfire between Indonesian troops and Fretilin. They were not shot by Indonesian troops," he said.

The families of the dead newsmen have long insisted official accounts were a lie and they have kept up a steady campaign for decades to bring justice to their loved ones.

An Australian coroner's inquest in 2007 found that the five were killed deliberately by Indonesian forces, a finding that eventually prompted Australian Police to launch an official investigation into the incident two months ago.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said the investigation was a step backward and could harm relations between the two nations.


Balibo "negative propaganda": Indon

By Adam Gartrell, South-East Asia Correspondent

JAKARTA, Dec 2 AAP - The Indonesian government has defended its censors' decision to ban Balibo, labelling the Australian film "negative propaganda".

Indonesia's censorship board, the LSF, announced the ban on Tuesday, just hours before Robert Connolly's acclaimed film was due to premiere in Jakarta.

The LSF is yet to explain its reasons for the ban but it's believed the Indonesian military was influential in the decision.

Balibo depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering the five Australia-based newsmen in the East Timorese border town in 1975, contradicting the official explanation that they were killed in crossfire.

Indonesian defence ministry spokesman Slamet Hariyanto on Wednesday welcomed the ban, saying the film would give Indonesia a bad name and defame its defence force.

"People would ask, what kind of leadership is that, if we ordered journalists to be treated like that?

"This is negative propaganda against Indonesia."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah also welcomed the decision.

"We asked them not to screen the movie because we were worried about opening up a new conflict between Indonesia and Australia," he said.

But Ezki Suyanto, from Indonesia's Independent Journalist Alliance, said Indonesia was too paranoid.

"Banning it is actually even counter-productive. It just makes more people want to watch it," he said.

Connolly said he was disappointed by the LSF's decision.

"I had high hopes for the film and the impact it may have had if it had screened in Indonesia," he told the ABC.

"I always think it's a pity when even in these democratic times in Indonesia that the people of Indonesia can't see a film that deals with their history."

The film's release in Australia earlier this year came just weeks before federal police announced they would conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the killings.

The probe follows a 2007 coronial inquest that concluded Indonesia deliberately killed the journalists to cover up their invasion of East Timor.

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