06 December 2009

The "People" Want "Balibo" Banned...

It was hardly surprising that the Indonesian Censorship Board (Lembaga Sensor Film / LSF) slapped a ban on the film Balibo. The film tells the story of five journalists killed in Balibo while covering the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. It also tells that story from the perspective of Roger East (who was ultimately murdered on the docks of Dili) and Jose Ramos Horta.

A good review of the film can be found over at Patrick Guntensperger's blog.

The film portrays the killings of the five journalists as murder. The cold hard reality was that they were executed. Any story to the contrary that the five were innocently caught in the cross-fire between Indonesian and Fretilin forces is just that, a story.

It is probably worth noting that the NSW Coroner's Court found enough evidence to forward the matter to the Australian Federal Police for a War Crimes Investigation.

But this post is not about rehashing the "facts" of the event. Rather it is about the amusing statement from the current Chief of the Army, General George Toisutta, who argues that the LSF decision to ban the film equates to the voices of the Indonesian public being heard. Simply, Indonesians across the board want the film to be banned.

I am not quite sure how the Indonesian people have spoken on this one in regards to voicing the opinion that the film must be banned. The simple fact that it has been banned means that most of the Indonesian populace has not had the opportunity to see it yet in order to formulate an opinion on it.

However, it has to be noted that banning a film in Indonesia does not have the same effect as it used to. Video piracy ensures that almost any film is available, if you look hard enough, and normally before it "opens" in Indonesian theatres. Word on the street is that Balibo is already freely available from road-side vendors of the latest films.

Furthermore, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Journalis Independen / AJI) have already screened the film for a select few, 300 or so to be a little more precise.

When it is all said and done, this is a film. It is an interpretation of historical events that clearly runs counter to what the Indonesian government have told their people about the incident.

However, banning the film ensures that it stays in the public conscience. A ban tends to increase the popularity of a film. The ban is sure to have people wanting to see it in order to see what the government is so committed to preventing them from seeing. And, more than anything else, the film is unlikely to seriously harm relations between Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Australia at the people to people level. The only harm that may befall these relationships are on the political level as desperate politicians seek to ground out some cheap political points on their rivals.

It is funny in that really sad kind of a way that the Indonesian government does not believe her citizens to be intellectually capable of digesting this film and making decisions on its content in rational ways. The government, once again, is severely underestimating the maturity of the Indonesian community as a whole.


oigal said...

Did you see the "Australian" today, seems some nothing LTCOL I'MKILLER or something or other has finally confessed to what everybody in the world has known all along e.g. TNI are murderous, immoral, lying bastards

Rob Baiton said...


The truth will set you free (although it should probably see you rot in jail).

oigal said...

His account tends to vary a lot tho

Anonymous said...

shallow banget. he's a plant, a lichen more likely,

H. Nizam said...


By banning the movie, LSF has given
free advertisement for the movie's pirate DVDs.


I supposed that you are referring to some general in TNI.

Rob Baiton said...


They do, but the Australian press are playing it up as the first time someone from the Indonesian side has admitted the truth (at least an eyewitness account).


Always good to adopt a pseudonym so that I can distinguish you from others.

The former colonel is shallow banget? or his testimony / account is shallow banget?

A plant? Really? To what end?


They have. But, that was there call. My personal opinion is that the movie, truth or fiction, was not one that was going to tear the moral fabric of the Indonesian community to such an extent that it would have caused untold law and order problems.

My view, it was knee-jerk in nature and an over-reaction.

Cannot answer for the Stump.

Anonymous said...

Back in UK I wasn't aware with this hoo-ha until early this month when we landed in Australia.

Our temporary apartment offers the movie in their channel, and I'm going to watch it tonight. Why? Because it is NOT about the truth. Every story has 2 sides, and I want to know both.

Indonesia should make a 'counter-movie' if they don't agree with Balibo. More effective than ban it:)

Regarding the TNI guy who suddenly admitted about killing those journalists, it's such a convenient time as it's the same time as the movie release. Coincident?

H. Nizam said...


Of course the movie would not harm the public in general, it is only science fiction.

You are right that Indonesia should make its own version of the story.
Re the TNI guy, if he really knows the truth why must he wait 34 years to reveal it? sounds fishy.

Rob Baiton said...


Yep, every side has two-sides. However, one of the sides has to be right, doesn't it? Or is the 'truth' caught somewhere in the middle?

A counter movie? Perhaps, but making a counter movie at this stage would seem a little knee jerk in nature, and bring the conspiracy theorists out in force that the only reason Indonesia is making the movie now is because it wants to keep the truth hidden.

My personal view, let the movie stand as it is, and let people make their own judgments as to where the truth is.

Coincidence? Maybe. Perhaps it is a simple case of opportunism. Whose? Well, I guess that is determined by which side of the fence you are on :D

Rob Baiton said...


I seriously contemplated not responding to your comment. But, that is not my nature!

Science fiction? How so? It might be fiction, but I do not quite get the science fiction angle.

I appreciate that you are Indonesian, and I appreciate that you have considerable nationalistic pride in the your country and her achievements to date. But, does everything that concerns East Timor have to be a conspiracy theory that is designed to undermine the sovereignty of Indonesia?

There are plenty of instances where people wait very long periods of time to reveal a crime. Some people never reveal what they know. They take their guilt or shame or knowledge with them to their graves.

What is fishy is the TNI response. What is fishy is the new order censorship tactics imposed by the LSF, what is fishy ...

Then again, the findings of the NSW Coroner's Court are all part of the grand Australian conspiracy to undermine Indonesia's sovereignty, aren't they?

H. Nizam said...


I always thought that people are free to have different opinion on your blog.

If I said several times that it would be better if my govt. make its own version of the movie and let viewers be the judge, it does not mean that I am against the movie.
Re 'science fiction' you are right it should be changed to 'fiction'.

My comment on the retired army Colonel remains.

Rob Baiton said...


You missed the point of my response. The reason I wasn't going to write it was because what I had to say would get the response it did.

If you are worried about people not being free to express opposing opinions here, then I would encourage you to look at the other posts here (Robin Tampoe might be a good one seeing there are 700+ comments to that one).

You are free to express your opinion, as is everyone else. However, any opinion is offered here subject to critical debate, mine included.

to the specifics. I am not saying you cannot hold an opinion or that you cannot offer it here. What I am asking is why you think that there is some conspiracy at play.

That question you did not answer.

I am not saying Indonesia cannot make a movie response to Balibo. If it wants to, why not? I merely suggested how that kind of response might be viewed.

Mate, I did not ask you to retract your comment. If you want to stand by it, then feel free to do so. I was, once again, merely offering up an explanation that might go to why some people wait to speak out about the atrocities they witness.

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