The bill is not short on controversy and not all stakeholders are happy about the provisions that have been codified into the new law. The bill, as most Indonesian laws do, make grand and bold statements as to the context in which the bill was drafted and debated. In this case, the bill suggests that the reformasi that Indonesia has undergone since 1998 and the fall of the New Order Regime of the former president Soeharto, included not only a political reformation but a cultural one too. As part of this cultural reformation the manner in which film is viewed has changed. Consequently, the previous regulatory framework for film, Law No. 8 of 1992, is no longer fit for purpose and needed to be repealed and replaced with a piece of legislation that reflects the current state of the Indonesian film industry in 2009.
The government views the new law as a step in the right direction with respect to the promotion and development of the thriving Indonesian film industry. However, in contrast, some within the thriving Indonesian film industry are openly questioning whether the new law is going to be conducive to the freedom of expression they have enjoyed in recent years to make the films they have wanted to make or whether the new provisions are going to stifle their creative opportunities with respect to making films that satisfy their creative energy. And, any stifling of the creative aspects of film-making would seemingly fly in the face of a recent Presidential Instruction on the Creative Economy.
The debate, although seemingly settled, with the passage of the bill through the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat / DPR) on 8 September 2009 may not be the end of the matter as there have been concerns raised with regards to whether or not quorum was reached in the DPR when the bill was passed. However, a more pertinent debate is whether the provisions infringe on the freedom of expression that Indonesians believed they enjoy as part of the series of Constitutional amendments made at the beginning of the reformation period or not.
At the heart of this debate is whether a modern and developing democracy such as Indonesia needs a censorship board or agency to vet film content or whether a film classification board would be sufficient for the purpose of rating films based on their content. Furthermore, the new law stipulates that film scripts must be registered and listed with the minister at least three months prior to any filming being undertaken. Ostensibly, this is to ensure that no two films are being made with the same title or on the same content / issues. Nevertheless, this provision would seemingly provide the power to the minister to vet and then veto any film which the minister deemed to be inappropriate.
The provisions of the new law require that all films conform to explicit societal mores and norms, and these are set out with respect to what is prohibited in Article 6. Simple, scenes that show violence, gambling, the misuse and abuse of drugs and other addictive substances, pornography, provocation between ethnic groups or races, questions religion or religious practices, encourages criminal activity or lowers the honor of the community are all prohibited. In essence, a foreign film like Ocean’s Eleven, which deals with gambling, and therefore would seemingly have to fall foul of the censors and be prohibited from screening. Similarly, local Indonesian films such as the martial arts film, Merantau, might also fall foul of Indonesia’s new censorship board as a consequence of the scenes that portray violence, drugs, and perhaps even scenes devoted to issues of human trafficking.
The new law sets out four classifications; all ages, 13+ years of age, 17+ years of age, and 21+ years of age. Films for the 21+ classification can only be screened between the hours of 23.00 and 03.00 and these films cannot be screened in a public space.
Foreign film makers wanting to use an Indonesian location must obtain the permission of the minister prior to shooting being commenced. The Elucidations to this provision only state that it is ‘self-explanatory’. Presumably, the permit procedure would require that the foreign film maker submit a script and all other relevant information prior to the minister considering a permit application.
The government’s argument for the new law supporting the development and expansion of the Indonesian film industry relies on the rather short Article, Article 32, which stipulates that at least 60% of all the hours that films are shown during any six-month period must be Indonesian films. The question many film makers have is whether they can make a sufficient number of films in light of all the prohibitions they are under with regards to content.
Film festivals, or more broadly film appreciation activities, are specifically regulated under the new law. These activities can be undertaken by private individuals, groups or organizations, the central government, or regional governments. Nevertheless, specific provisions on how the relevant articles are to be implemented will become clearer once the associated Ministerial Regulations are issued.
The devolution of authorities under the provisions provides that the regional governments can facilitate film production within their respective regional areas. This would include facilitating Indonesian films to satisfy the 60% content provisions noted previously. Regional governments would also be required to facilitate the production of documentary films on their respective cultural uniqueness and other regionally specific issues.
The central government has responsibility with respect to facilitating film-making through the provision of tax and other kinds of duty and excise exemptions and reductions.
The funding of films is set out as a joint responsibility that would permit the central and regional governments to contribute. However, it is expected that any funds that are to be provided by government would be best administered through the creation of a film corporation which is tasked specifically with managing these funds. Unfortunately, the new law and the elucidations do not provide any additional input on this issue beyond funding being a joint responsibility.
The new law sets out both administrative and criminal sanctions. The administrative sanctions are the standard written warnings, fines, temporary suspension of activities, and the revocation of licenses and permits. The criminal sanctions provide for terms of imprisonment of between 6 months and 2 years, and fines of between IDR 10 billion and IDR 100 billion.
Finally, the current censorship board is to remain in place until such time as the new censorship board is installed. The new censorship board must be installed no later than 18 months from the date of enactment of the new law.
The new law is not without some controversy. However, the entry into law appears a mere formality with the president expected to sign the bill.