Two musicians face jail for singing ‘dog’ about police
One song and the use of one word – ‘anjing’ – has left two musicians of the rock band Ed Edy and Residivus facing 18 months in prison. Canadian radio correspondent Michael McAuliffe travelled to the Indonesian island of Bali to meet the musicians who are charged with violating Section 207 of the country’s criminal code
The most liberal of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, and the country’s most popular tourist destination, Bali is a haven for artists and musicians. In July 2006, they were more than happy one day to stage a benefit concert for victims of a recent earthquake elsewhere in the country.
But two musicians from the band Ed Edy and Residivus would end the night as subjects of a police manhunt, be charged with a crime days later, and now face a trial that could land both of them in prison. All because of one word in a single song they sang that night.
The song that’s got them into trouble is called ‘Anjiing’ – a rockish number that nobly warns against judging someone based solely on their appearance. The lyrics are about some upstanding men who decide to beat up someone they think is a drug dealer – only to learn afterwards he’s actually an undercover policeman.
Two lines of the song say:
Anjing! Kukira Preman
“Dog! I thought you were a thug (/ gangster)
Lyricist and guitarist Igo (real name: Teguh Setiabudi) explains that the word ‘anjiing’ has two possible meanings. Literally it means ‘dog’, but it’s also used colloquially as an expression of surprise, similar to when an English-speaking person says ‘Shit!’. In other words, according to Igo, the lyrics are to be understood like this:
“Shit! I thought you were a criminal
A few days after the concert, Indonesia prosecutors charged guitarist Igo and lead singer Ed Edy with violating Article 207 of the country’s criminal code, which makes it a crime to intentionally and publicly insult a state institution. Their lawyer, human rights advocate Agus Samijaya, says that if convicted, Igo and Edy could spend a year and a half behind bars.
“Section 207 gets used quite a bit to stop artists in the country from performing different things. It’s been used against musicians, it’s been used to block theatrical performances, its even been used against poets,” says Agus Samijaya.
Samijaya calls the law a holdover relic from the decades Indonesians spent living under thin-skinned dictators – a law, he says, that should have been stricken from the books as soon as democracy took hold here.
So now he’s hoping to use this case in a bid to accomplish just that – and he’s actually optimistic:
In fact at the moment, Indonesia’s courts are awash with similar cases involving key issues of freedom of expression, fueled by growing fundamentalist and radical sentiments in the world’s most populous muslim country.
One Jakarta court is currently trying the editor of a new Indonesian version of Playboy magazine. Another is hearing an appeal filed by a coalition of the country’s artists and writers who are trying to block a sweeping new anti-pornography law.
Oppose to pressure
“Rock will never die!” the listener hears Igo stating in Michael McAuliffe’s radio report.
Igo and Edy
(Photo credit: Michael Mcauliffe)
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – February 2007:
Indonesia Matters – 5 October 2006:
‘Insulting the police’
Asia Media – 5 October 2006:
‘Indonesia: Balinese musicians stand trial for dogging police’
ebo.pocastella.com (in Indonesian language):
‘Cerita tentang ‘Anjing’ ‘