Indonesia: Cultural festival censored

3 November 2015

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, one of South-East Asia’s biggest cultural and literary events, running from 28 October to 1 November 2015, has been forced by local authorities to cancel some of its key programs.

The censorship is unprecedented in the 12-year history of the festival, reported Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media, Jewel Topsfield.

The organiser was forced to drop all sessions that were to look at the massacre of communists in Indonesia in the 1960s following pressure from local authorities. Three panel discussions, a book launch and an art exhibition, as well as a screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s film ‘The Look of Silence’, have been cancelled.

The removal of the events was announced after organisers attended a meeting with officials led by Gianyar Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Farman.

The organisers explained that if they did not cancel the screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s film, they would “run the risk of the entire festival being cancelled”.

Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono wrote on Human Rights Watch’s home page:

“The sad fact is that what’s going on at the Ubud festival is not an isolated case. The Indonesian military and their thugs have already censored other events related to 1965 on Java and Sumatra. Both of Oppenheimer’s films, which have won international awards and acclaim, are still not allowed to be shown in Indonesia’s theaters or on television.

It’s terrible for Indonesia that almost two decades after the fall of Suharto, the government is still engaging in this type of behavior. The question now is whether Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, will step in and curtail the police and intelligence forces.”

The mission of the annual Writers and Readers Festival in Bali is to introduce Indonesia to the world through literary works and art performances.


» The Guardian – 3 November 2015:
Ubud writers festival debates massacre ‘that we’re not supposed to talk about’

» Human Rights Watch – 29 October 2015:
Dispatches: Censorship is Back in Indonesia

» The Jakarta Post – 29 October 2015:
Ubud festival kicks off amid censorship pressure

» Sydney Morning Herald – 25 October 2015:
Bali Nine lawyer joins Indonesians warning against return to Suharto censorship

» Ubud Writers and Readers Festival home page:

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