Indonesia: Ed Edy and Residivus face jail for singing ‘dog’ about police



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

By Michael McAuliffe, CBC

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
     Anjing! Ternyata Polisi

     “Dog! I thought you were a thug (/ gangster)
     “But dog! You were actually the police”

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
     but shit! You were actually the police”

Violating Article 207

The Bali police understood this as if Igo was saying ‘shit’ to police, and didn’t take kindly to a song about beating up a police officer – a song that the crowd seemed to love. A number of policemen providing security at the concert in in Denpasar in July stormed the stage and arrested the musicians at the close of the song. The five musicians were jailed soon after for questioning but were released after 24 hours.

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:
“There used to be a similar law that made it illegal to publicly insult the President. I had another client, a student protestor, who was charged and convicted of doing that. But on appeal, we were able to get that law struck down. The court agreed a law like that was no longer necessary in this country. So I’m hoping we can now do the same thing with this law against insulting state institutions.”

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

Franky Sahilatua is a composer and member of that coalition. He testified at Igo and Edy’s trial as an expert witness.
“The fundamentalists, the extremists, muslim radicals are trying to change things. So we’re fighting back against them,” he says.
“Indonesia has seen this coming. But the government has been slow to take action or push back against these people. So people like us, we have to step up and oppose this pressure for more controls in society.”
Meanwhile, Igo and Edy wait with fingers crossed, hoping they won’t wind up in jail, and that they will be able to continue producing and performing music that has a little edge.

“Rock will never die!” the listener hears Igo stating in Michael McAuliffe’s radio report.
“It just gets into trouble sometimes,” Michael McAuliffe adds.  
Igo laughs and replies:
“Many times, I guess!”

Michael McAuliffe is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Asia correspondent, based in Thailand. This text is based on a radio report of his which was part of CBC’s special series ‘Censor This!’, which looked at different forms of censorship around the world in February 2007.

Igo and Edy
(Photo credit: Michael Mcauliffe)


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – February 2007:
‘Censor This!’

Other sources

Indonesia Matters – 5 October 2006:
‘Insulting the police’

Asia Media – 5 October 2006:

‘Indonesia: Balinese musicians stand trial for dogging police’ (in Indonesian language):

‘Cerita tentang ‘Anjing’ ‘

Go to top
Related reading