The Indonesian Censorship Board (LSF) has banned Balibo, a film about a group of Australians who were murdered during the 1975 Indonesian military invasion of East Timor. The ban ultimately stops the movie from being screened last weekend by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) — association of Indonesia-based foreign media newsmen, and therefore will not be screened at this year's annual Jakarta International Film Festival (Jiffest).
Some officials, including the military, cheered the decision taken by the censorship agency saying that the movie would open up an old wound and could jeapordize the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia.
The international press criticized the ban and questioned Indonesia's freedom of expression. However, when the Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik asked to comment about the ban, he told a local newpaper – The Jakarta Globe – that the ban is “for the country’s interest, the security and welfare of the people in the future” adding that the movie is banned mainly because it is packed with political content.
Jogjakarta blogger Rawins wonders why the government doesn't train the people to think critically:
Kenapa masyarakat kita tak dibelajari untuk berpikir dewasa dengan main cekal semacam itu. Padahal dengan pencekalan itu, masyarakat justru malah penasaran dan mendongkrak popularitas film tersebut.
Why aren't we taught to think maturely instead of censoring just like that. The truth is that with the censor, the people would be more curious and the popularity of the movie will increase.
Rob Baiton who blogs at The RAB Experience, said that the ban doesn't come to him as a surprise:
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.
Patrick Guntensperger, a professional writer/analyst based in Jakarta, reviewed the movie on his blog.
In the first place, controversy aside, the movie is a terrific one. It is an exciting, authentic depiction of high drama and adventure; the fact that it is a true story only adds to its fascination. And the director and producers stand behind their version of the events. This is not a movie that “was inspired by actual events” or “based on a true story”. The title sequence states unequivocally that “this is a true story”.
In conclusion Patrick said that, above all reasons, the movie should be watched as a movie:
There is little point really in recounting much more of the plot of the story; suffice it to say that the Indonesian government has one story and pretty much everyone who has investigated the incidents has another, utterly different one. This is a movie. And it is a very good movie. Watch it as a movie. And if it interests you enough, do your own research into the historicity of the script.
Indonesian Independent Journalists Association (AJI Indonesia) said that the movie is highly educative and should not be banned.
It launched a Press Release [id] on its website, saying:
Keputusan LSF tersebut bertentangan dengan prinsip kebebasan berekspresi, kebebasan berapresiasi dan tidak menghormati hak masyarakat untuk tahu.Menurut Pihak LSF pelarangan film tersebut akan “membuka luka lama” konflik Indonesia dengan Australia dan Timor Leste. Alasan tersebut terkesan berlebihan.
AJI Indonesia menduga, pelarangan film tersebut sangat politis karena film tersebut mengungkap pelanggaran HAM oleh tentara Indonesia berupa pembantaian lima jurnalis asing di Balibo, Timor Leste pada 1975. Pelarangan film tersebut terkesan untuk menutup-nutupi keterlibatan sejumlah perwira Indonesia dalam pembantaian jurnalis itu.
The decision of the censorship board is against the principle of freedom of expression, freedom of appreciation, and failed to honor the right of the people to know. According to the censorship board the film will only “open an old wound” of conflict between Indonesia and Australia and Timor Leste. We see the excuse as overreacting.
AJI Indonesia presumes that the ban of the film is politically motivated because the film reveals human rights violations by the Indonesian army when the five foreign journalists in Balibo, Timor Leste were slain in 1975. The ban of the film suggests a cover up of the involvement of some Indonesian officers who slayed the journalists.
AJI demands the censorship board to revoke the ban:
AJI Indonesia meminta agar pelarangan film “Balibo Five” dicabut. Pemutaran film ini penting untuk memberikan informasi kepada publik Indonesia mengenai peristiwa tersebut dari sudut pandang lain dari apa yang disampaikan pemerintah Indonesia selama ini.
[…] Film tersebut juga menjadi peringatan bahwa pembunuhan terhadap jurnalis harus diusut tuntas, pelakunya harus diadili.
AJI Indonesia asks that the ban on the movie about the Balibo Five to be revoked. The screening is important to share the information to the public about the event from a different point of view from one delivered by the government all these years.
[…] The film should be a rememberance that crimes of murdering journalists need to be solved, and the crime doers should be tried.
Despite the ban, AJI screened the movie last Thursday in Jakarta. The free public screening was attended by hundreds of journalists and students.
Brett McGuire on his blog Spruiked firmly believes that the government shouldn't ban the movie:
Should the government ban the movie? Probably not. Sure, it opens old wounds, but this helps the healing process. Most Indonesians know very little about East Timor. Thirty years later and most still believe the New Order fairytale that the East Timorese invited Indonesia to take over from the Portuguese.
Should the government ban the movie? Banning movies seems a little heavy handed. It's something that we expect religious leaders to do, not democratically elected governments. Still, this government seems to have forgotten that the New Order ended 10 years ago.
Balibo is a name of a small town in Timor Leste, how the East Timor formally called itself after the 1999 referendum which marked its independence from the Republic of Indonesia, situated at the west side of the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara.