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No porn, no gore, no sensitive politics: Censored in Indonesia

Has Big Brother moved back to Jakarta? Does it matter?

All circulated media falls under the purview of the censors, including internet websites, Darmanto said. The two censorship boards (a collection of officials from departments like education, religion, police and national intelligence) refer to a law passed in 1963 to determine what should be blacklisted.

“Anything that can disturb the public order can be banned from circulation,” Darmanto said in an interview.

He said items that contradict the country’s national development plan, spread concepts of Marxism, Leninism or communism, disparage the nation or national leadership, degrade morals (such as pornography), are anti-religion or disgrace any of the religions permitted in Indonesia or oppose an ethnic group or custom, could disturb the public order.

One recently banned book, which is easily available from any number of street-side booksellers, recounts the still mysterious ascendancy of Suharto in 1965 to when he became president in 1967. Others discuss religious pluralism. A book about the 1970s leftist organization known as Lekra, called “Lekra Doesn’t Burn Books,” was also recently banned, though not yet burned.

Facing criticism for the recent spike in censorship, the president pointed to the free press in his defense but warned a group of students last week that their freedom was “not unlimited.”

Activists said the administration’s recent effort to control information has revealed its inability to move fully beyond the Suharto-era culture of repression they grew up in.

“The government is stuck in the past,” said Gonggong. “Banning books, that is not democratic. That is authoritarian. The government can’t have it both ways. We are free enough now that if they want to practice that sort authoritarian behavior, we will scream.”