29 Desember 2009

AGO’s ban on books violates Constitution: Experts

Published on The Jakarta Post (http://www.thejakartapost.com)
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 12/29/2009 8:35 AM | National

The Constitutional Court should revoke the authority of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to ban books within the country, as it limits intellectual freedom guaranteed by the Constitution, experts say.

They agreed here Monday the practice of banning authors from distributing their published books was a legacy from the New Order Era under then president Soeharto.

“There must be a judicial review of the law on the AGO that gives the office the authority to ban books at will,” historian Asvi Warman Adam from the National Institute of Sciences (LIPI) told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The AGO recently banned five books, including Dalih Pembunuhan Massal Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Soeharto (The Sept. 30 movement and Soeharto Coup de’tat) by Jhon Roosa, Enam Jalan Menuju Tuhan (Six ways to reach God) by Darmawan M.M and Mengungkap Misteri Keberagaman Agama (Resolving the mystery of religious diversity) by Syahrudin Ahmad.

The two other banned books were Suara Gereja Bagi Umat Tertindas Penderitaan Tetesan Darah dan Cucuran Air Mata Umat Tuhan di Papua Barat Harus Diakhiri (The Voice of Churches for suppressed people, blood and God’s tears in West Papua) by Cocrateze Sofyan Yoman, and Lekra Tak Pernah Membakar Buku Suara Senyap Lembar Kebudayaan Harian Rakjat 1950-1965 (Lekra Never Burns Books) by Roma Dwi Aria Yuliantri and Muhidin M. Dahlan.

The AGO claimed the books regarding faith and spiritually could spread heretical teaching and cause confusion among the people, while the Sept. 30 movement book allegedly contained false information.

But experts slammed the AGO for its unilateral step.

“I don’t condone the AGO banning books, especially the publication of Roosa’s book, which has been on the market since 2008. The fact is the book has not caused any political instability in the country over the past year,” he said.

He said that Roosa’s book contributed a new perspective on the history behind the September 30 incident to the country’s historians and the public.

Roosa’s book was nominated as among the best books at the International Convention of Asian Scholars.

Political expert Hermawan Sulistya also criticized the AGO for banning the distribution of Roosa’s book, saying the move denied the public of information.

“There is no need to ban the book, the government could publish a new book to counter Roosa’s if it did not recount the true story,” he said.

The AGO has the authority to monitor the circulation of written materials and has banned a number of books deemed capable of disrupting political stability since the Soeharto era.

After the fall of Soeharto in 1998, alternative information about the 1965 bloodbath, previously only discussed as an underground movement, started to surface.

In 2002, during the presidency of Abdurrahman Wahid, a number of noted historians issued different analyses of the Sept. 30 events in a supplement to the state’s version of Indonesian history and distributed it to schools.

In the spirit of reform, the effort was later accommodated by the National Education Ministry’s research and development center, which included the works in the 2004 curriculum.

The AGO has confiscated dozens of the history textbooks particularly in relation to the G30 September movement, in the fear they could perpetuate a resurgence of communism in the country.

Rudi Satrio, a legal expert from the University of Indonesia said the AGO should give authors the opportunity to defend their reason for publishing the books.

“The AGO can no longer ban books without meeting with the authors. The government could then bring the case to the court,” he said.

Rudi said that if the AGO failed to follow this process it would violate the Constitution.

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