Irwan Nugroho, Jakarta – The Indonesian Film Society (MFI) believes that the banning of a film about the deaths of five Australian journalists in East Timor or the Balibo Five makes no sense, saying it was surprised over why the government is so afraid of the film being seen by the Indonesian public.
“How come they’re so paranoid? This is exactly the same as [former President Suharto’s] New Order period where the state feels the need to protect its people from certain films,” said MFI activist Abduh Azis in a discussion with Detik.com on Wednesday December 2.
The banning of the film titled “Balibo” by the Film Censorship Institute (LSF) continued Azis, indicates that the government still has a narrow view of the film rather than seeing the film as a means of promoting dialog and learning.
“The film Balibo is a [chance] to reflect again about what happened in the past. That we once had a bad relationship with East Timor. I think this is healthy and very educational,” he added.
According to Azis, as a democratic country Indonesia should abolish the censorship of films, because as long as this censorship remains in force, restraints on the freedom of expression will continue.
“Now, is censorship still relevant? I think not, because we are a democratic country. In democratic countries it is not censorship that is applied, but film classification,” he said.
“Balibo” is a work by Robert Connolly about the death of five Australian journalists that took place during the war between the Indonesian military (TNI) and East Timorese guerrillas in 1975. The Indonesian government has stated that the showing of the film would be very sensitive and could reopen the conflict between Indonesia and Australia.
The Foreign Affairs Department said that the five journalists (Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart and Brian Peters) were not killed by TNI soldiers, but were died unintentionally during an exchange of fire. The Balibo Five case itself has been declared finished. (irw/iy)
[Translated by James Balowski.]