Court Hears Author’s Legal Case Against Book Bans
An author whose book was banned by the Attorney General’s Office demanded on Tuesday that the Constitutional Court annul two laws that gave the AGO this power.
“This is no longer an era of banning books from being published and distributed,” Darmawan said on Tuesday after the court hearing on the judicial review he was seeking. “We can freely download it from the Internet if it is banned by the government. So what is the point of banning my book?”
Darmawan’s book, titled “Six Ways to God,” tells people about the different ways religions worship and was banned by the AGO on Dec. 23, 2009, along with four other books.
The two laws Darmawan is challenging at the court are the 2004 Law on the Attorney General’s Office and the 1963 Law on Securing Printed Materials (whose content could the disrupt public order). Under the 2004 law, the AGO has the task of monitoring printed material. Sharper than the AGO law, the 1963 law on printed materials allows the AGO to ban distribution and confiscate books.
Darmawan said his book was actually to make people realize the importance of togetherness and living in harmony despite religious differences.
“All I wrote about is how people can live closer to God,” he said. “I did put forth some different interpretations on certain religious teachings, but if people have a problem, I encourage them to write their own books.”
The Jakarta Globe, during a quick glance over the book, did notice the last part of the book talks about the seven mistakes of Islam. In the foreword of the book, Darmawan admitted that he used to be a religious Moslem but later converted to Catholicism.
The AGO, which was heavily criticized for banning the books, requires that those in possession of the banned books submit them to the AGO and gave the police and other state institutions the authority to confiscate the books.
The banned books include “Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’Etat in Indonesia,” by John Roosa, and “Lekra Doesn’t Burn Books,” jointly written by Rhoma Dwi Aria Yuliantri and Muhidin M Dahlan.
The AGO states that the five books were banned because of their potential to disturb public order, which could later destroy public trust in its national leaders and cause moral degradation.
Yoseph Adi Prasetyo, better known as Stanley, of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said separately that his institution would investigate the banning.
“It is clearly against human rights,” he said. “We have freedom of expression and opinion and books are a part of that freedom.”
He said it would be better taking action against the people who got angry over the books. “Books themselves don’t disturb public order. It’s the people who get upset and destroy things who should be banned.”