Critics Take Their Last Shots at Indonesian Film Censorship Plan

With less than a week to go before lawmakers endorse it, the controversial film bill is coming under a hail of media criticism in a last attempt to stop its passage. The press and broadcasting community on Friday joined the fray, calling for the bill not to be passed next week as scheduled, saying it was too authoritarian, would stifle creativity and could hurt democracy. “The proposed film bill is much worse than the current Law on Film. It allows for more interventions and controls on film activities and businesses,” said Kukuh Sanyoto, a coordinator of the community, or MPPI. The new bill, Kukuh told the House of Representatives, would curtail the freedom of filmmakers, reducing their ability to express their creativity, through its articles on censorship, its unclear classification of films, its permit requirement for film companies and its requirement that films be registered with the authorities. “This is government intervention going too far,” he said. He added that the bill also allowed for additional regulations through governmental or ministerial decrees, further boosting government intervention. Kukuh said the bill, a revision of the 1992 Law on Film that is scheduled for endorsement on Tuesday, was prepared without public participation, including from the film industry. Kukuh said that films should be placed on par with other media like newspapers and magazines, which are not obliged to seek permits to publish, and as a democracy, the country should do away with censorship bodies. “The public should be protected, but not with the brutality of a censorship body,” Kukuh said. Other prominent MPPI members joining the protest included Press Council deputy chairman Sabam Leo Batubara and Indonesian Media Law and Policy Center director Hinca IP Pandjaitan. Heri Akhmadi, the deputy chairman of House Commission X overseeing art and culture, said the commission had held public discussions in six cities and had taken on board input from many actors, producers and theater businesspeople. “We’ve tried to accommodate all sectors of the industry. We’ve tried to find the solution to opposing perspectives,” Heri said. “But we can’t just follow one voice. This is a political process.” He said the new censorship board to be set up under the revised law would be an independent body with members chosen by the public, and that instead of butchering films it would only classify them. Heri added that the registration of films was meant only to help the government gather data, from the types of movies being made to box office figures. Separately, several nongovernmental organizations urged lawmakers to include clauses banning cigarette advertising in films to protect children from being targeted by tobacco companies. Muhammad Joni, the deputy chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, said at a news conference that the film bill did not protect children and teenagers from being exposed to cigarette advertising. Joni added that the film industry should be treated the same as broadcasters and the press.

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