Indonesia: Activists raise concern about limits on artsfreedom

18 December 2015

Cultural and human rights activists have expressed outrage and concern after police placed a ban on an arts event scheduled to take place at Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural centre on 15 December 2015.

According to the Jakarta Post, the police cited “practical reasons of security” as their reason, rather than any question of political censorship.

Jakarta Arts Council chairman Irawan Karseno has nonetheless described the ban as an “arbitrary act of state”.

The Jakarta Art Council (DKJ) released a statement saying that a drama dealing with the events of 1965 at the Jakarta Theater Festival (FTJ) will be staged despite objections by the authorities.

Police in the capital issued a letter that banned a discussion on and reading of a drama script for “Family Album: #50years1965,” which was supposed to take place at Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural centre.

The prohibition letter was issued after a protest was lodged by a lobby group calling itself the Jakarta Theater Family Who Cares for the Jakarta Theater Festival, which considered the topic too sensitive.

The anti-communist purges that started in 1965 left hundreds of thousands of people dead, with many of the perpetrators being considered heroes to this day. Questioning the official account of what happened or calling attention to the plight of the victims remains taboo in Indonesia.

At a press conference at Taman Ismail Marzuki, in Cikini, DKJ head Irawan Karseno said the police ban amounted to a violation of civil rights.

“The police should be able to protect us from disturbances that we may face when practicing our right to free speech. We are always open for discussion, but we will not back down in the face of such intimidating moves,” he said.




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