New Zealand: Indonesian embassy stops musical performance

19 February 2007
At a festival in New Zealand, an audio-visual composition which focus on the indigenous people and politics of Indonesia was withdrawn after presure from the Indonesian embassy

“The rights of New Zealanders have been infringed,” stated the composer of the musical piece ‘Papua Merdeka’ which was withdrawn at the Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington in New Zealand on 17 February 2007. The New Zealand Indonesia human rights committee condemned the move as “deplorable censorship”.

According to the human rights committee, Indonesian embassy officials had advised the festival’s organisers of the embassy’s opposition to the musical item, and the performance was then cancelled. Instead it was shown in a closed session. The human rights committee found it especially disturbing that a composition has been banned because the word “freedom” (merdeka) is part of its title.

Political theme
Composer Dr Martin Wesley Smith includes a strong political theme in much of his music, and he had written the piece in support of the self-determination movement in the Indonesia.

He told Radio New Zealand International it was an issue of free speech:
“That New Zealanders are denied the right to hear and see what they would like to, perhaps, by pressure from a foreign embassy, which I wouldn’t be happy about if I was a New Zealander.”

Embassy: No pressure, only concern
Tri Purnajaya from the Indonesian embassy in Wellington told the radio station that they didn’t pressure the organisers to withdraw the piece but simply were concerned that it would upset visitors:

“It might hurt the people from Indonesia who are here also – their feelings. To talk about Indonesia in a different way will somehow, I think, cause them to feel upset,” Mr Purnajaya told to the listeners of Radio New Zealand International .




Radio New Zealand International – 13 February 2007:
‘Indonesian embassy in Wellington asked to drop opposition to a musical item called Papua Merdeka’


Political opponents in jail for peaceful acts of freedom of expression and opinion
On 21 February 2007 Human Rights Watch published a 42-page report, entitled ‘Protest and Punishment: Political Prisoners in Papua’. It documents Indonesia’s use of criminal law to punish individuals who peacefully advocate for independence in the eastern Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya (known as Papua). The
prisoners were convicted for treason or spreading hatred against the government for nonviolent activities such as flag-raising or attending peaceful meetings on self-determination for Papua.
For instance, Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were sentenced in 2005 to 15
years and 10 years respectively for rebellion and spreading hatred against
the government for organising a peaceful celebration of Papua’s national

Reporters Without Borders:
Indonesia – Annual report 2007

Human Rights Watch – 21 February 2007:

‘Indonesia: Free Political Prisoners in Papua’

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