Indonesia’s Uphill Battle Against Porn

By webadmin on 11:40 am Jul 27, 2012
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Bruce Gale – Straits Times

On July 23, when Nazriel ‘Ariel’ Irham of the Bandung-based Peterpan pop group was released from prison, the local singer’s fans were elated. Online tweets were full of goodwill messages: “Go out and enjoy the fresh air Ariel. Keep up the good work (in music),” said one, calling the singer by his well-known nickname.

On Sunday night, dozens of fans slept outside the Kebonwaru Penitentiary in Bandung in order to greet Ariel when he was released at 9:15 a.m. the following morning. Yet more waited outside his parents’ house in the Antapani district.

Arrested in June 2010, the 30-year-old singer was convicted in January last year for producing a pornographic video which later found its way on to the Internet. His fans, however, see him as the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Indeed, many aspects of the trial, have raised troubling questions about the nation’s judicial system. Nazriel was convicted under the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law for distributing pornography, despite prosecutors failing to prove he was the one who posted the videos online.

The videos, made for private use, featured Ariel having sex with his girlfriend, television personality Luna Maya, and soap opera star Cut Tari, who was married.

Investigations revealed that the videos were stolen from Ariel’s computer by a former Peterpan employee, who later gave them to a cousin. The latter then posted them on the Internet. The employee was later sentenced to two years’ jail. Strangely, however, his cousin was not charged.

Many lawyers believe the case should not have gone to court at all. This is because the filming occurred in 2006, almost two years before the ITE legislation – which was not retroactive – became law.

When the videos involving Ariel became public, however, outrage from Islamic conservatives, including the hardline Muslim group Hizbut Tahrir, forced the authorities to find an excuse to act. One idea was to charge Cut Tari with adultery, a criminal offense in Indonesia. But this failed when her husband refused to press charges. The fact that the acts were clearly consensual also ruled out other charges under the Criminal Code. Thus, the decision to target Ariel under the ITE law.

Critics want to know why politically influential people caught in similar situations have not been similarly charged. These include PDI-P legislator Max Moein, who has been depicted naked with his secretary in pictures circulating on the Internet. There is also a sex video featuring former Golkar lawmaker Yahya Zaini and singer Maria Eva made in 2006.

As in many other areas of Indonesian law, inconsistent enforcement remains rife. In 2008, for example, the chief editor of the Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine was jailed under the ITE law, even though no nudity was depicted in the magazine.

Yet, explicitly pornographic videos remain freely available on Jakarta’s streets. Vendors in Glodok, West Jakarta, for example, regularly sell such videos openly despite half-hearted police raids.

The Ariel case, meanwhile, has done little to promote the anti-pornography cause. Instead of being seen as a two-timing lecher, Ariel is now widely regarded by both fans and many others in the wider community as a victim of an unjust and convoluted legal system. Having released a new music album while still in prison, he is now on track to star in an upcoming movie — albeit with a less titillating theme.

Contrast this with the fate of politicians Max Moein and Yahya Zaini. They have not been charged with any crime, but they have been forced to resign from their respective political parties. A similar fate befell Prosperous Justice Party politician Arifinto last year after he was caught on camera watching a pornographic video during a parliamentary session.

Indonesians in general strongly disapprove of those who produce, distribute or view pornographic material. Recognizing this, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono formed a special anti-pornography task force this year led by Coordinating People’s Welfare Minister Agung Laksono. Established in March, the task force reports directly to the President and plans to set up offices in all provinces in the country.

Few, however, are convinced it will have much impact. Internet pornography, for example, has been banned since 2010, when the Communications and Information Ministry ordered local Internet service providers to block access to all pornographic Web sites. Local aficionados, however, say that it is still quite easy to download such material.

Instead of underlining the determination of the authorities to crack down on pornography, the Peterpan affair has merely added to the skepticism.

Ariel may be enjoying the fresh air, but Indonesians in general may have to put up with the smut for some time.

Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times