Govt Bans Australian Film on E. Timor Killings

JAKARTA ~ The government has banned an Australian-made film on the alleged murder of six Australia-based journalists by Indonesian troops during the 1975 invasion of East Timor.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the move against the movie Balibo was designed to protect Indonesia’s international image, although censorship board officials were unable to explain on what grounds the film had been banned.

“What we have to be cautious of is not to let this film affect the global perception on Indonesia. If it is explained well, then I think there will be no problem,” Natalegawa told parliament on Wednesday.

Australian police earlier this year launched a war crimes investigation into the deaths of five journalists killed when Indonesian troops entered the town of Balibo and a sixth who died weeks later in the assault on Dili.

Jakarta has always maintained that the “Balibo Five,” who were working for Australian television networks, died in crossfire as Indonesian troops fought East Timorese Fretilin rebels.

But Balibo, starring Anthony LaPaglia, portrays the journalists being brutally executed on the orders of Indonesian military chiefs to prevent news of the invasion reaching the outside world.

An Australian coroner’s investigation two years ago concluded that the Balibo Five were shot and stabbed repeatedly by Indonesian special forces as they tried to surrender.

The coroner called for war crimes charges against a number of Indonesian military officers, including Captain Yunus Yosfiah who rose to become Indonesia’s information minister in the late 1990s.

Director Robert Connolly told the Australian Broadcasting Coorporation he was “incredibly disappointed” by the Indonesians’ resort to censorship.

“I had high hopes for the film and the impact it may have had if it had screened in Indonesia,” he was quoted as saying on the broadcaster’s website.

“I always think it’s a pity when, you know, even in these democratic times in Indonesia that the people of Indonesia can’t see a film that deals with, you know, their history.”

He said it was like making a film in 1980 about the last year of World War II and “being told you can’t screen it.”

A private screening of the film for members of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club on Tuesday night was cancelled at the last minute after authorities told organisers they risked prosecution.

The film, which debuted in Australia in July, was also due to be featured at the Jakarta International Film Festival next week but organisers said authorities had ordered them to scratch it without providing a reason.

“We’re disappointed for sure. I’ve seen Balibo and I didn’t find any part of the film that could justify it being banned,” festival manager Nauval Yazid said.

“What we screen at this festival are films that have educational values. And we picked Balibo because it was educational and based on a true story.

“We haven’t received any notification from the censorship board on why they banned the film.”

Film Censorship Board chief Muchlis Paeni was unavailable to comment on the ban and did not return phone calls.

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One Response to “Govt Bans Australian Film on E. Timor Killings”

  1. Dave Says:

    Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the move against the movie Balibo was designed to protect Indonesia’s international image.

    Indonesia’s international image is one of, corruption at all levels of government, injustice to citizens and tourists alike and a corrupt judiciary. What is the image the minister is trying to protect?

    I’ll never visit the country again and will urge others not to visit as well.

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