05 August 2010

The State Administrative Court in Jakarta has rejected a petition by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen / AJI) to overturn the Indonesian Film Censorship Board (Lembaga Sensor Film / LSF) ban on the film Balibo. The story is told from the viewpoint of Roger East. Roger East was also murdered on the docks of Dili by Indonesia military forces.

The film says in its promotional material and trailer that it is based on a true story, and suggests in no uncertain terms that the five journalists (Greg Shackleton, Malcolm Rennie, Gary Cunningham, Brian Peters and Tony Stewart) that have come to be known was the Balibo Five were murdered by Indonesian forces invading East Timor.

Recent developments, including a coronial inquiry in the New South Wales Coroner's Court, found that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with further investigations of the perpetrators for committing international crimes of a serious and grievous nature; a war crimes investigation.

In many respects, it is not surprising that the film was banned in the first place, nor is it at all surprising that the ban was upheld by the State Administrative Court. It is not rocket science to understand that there are some things in Indonesia's past that she would not want to revisit, and this is one of them.

It is worth noting that the Australian government is not jumping up and down wanting to know why the film is subject to a ban. This is not surprising either. It is not surprising because Australia was very much complicit in the invasion as it gave the green light for the Indonesians to go in and forcibly integrate Portuguese Timor into the Unitary State of Indonesia. It is also not surprising because it shows how little thought the government of the time gave to the safety of the five journalists on the ground or to Roger East.

Nevertheless, it is surprising that the State Administrative Court has seemingly been asleep at the wheel when it came to hearing the evidence and actually listening to the evidence put forward by the Legal Aid Foundation - Press, legal representatives, of AJI. The State Administrative Court has utilised provisions that were not argued and appear to be poor choices on which to base the decision to uphold the ban and reject the AJI petition. In an important case, such as this one, where there are implications for freedom of speech and freedom of expression, which Indonesia supposedly guarantees, then the judges have a responsibility to get the law right.

On a side note, the film has already been screened in Indonesia despite the ban and no problems have been reported. Indonesian, Timorese, and Australia relations have not irretrievably broken down, there has not been mass rioting on the streets in the places where the film has been shown, and there has not been any inkling of the country degenerating into a state of anarchy. This suggests that, despite the Indonesian Censorship Board's concerns, Indonesian film viewers are more mature and critical of the material they watch than either the Government, the military, or the Censorship Board gives them credit for.


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Rob Baiton said...

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I am sure that if people are interested then they can check out your link.

Not quite sure how your comment relates to the substance of the original post?

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