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Government blocks YouTube, file-sharing sites to stop viewing of anti-Islam film

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Major Internet service providers in Indonesia have reportedly blocked several file-sharing websites in adherence to a government order prohibiting people from viewing online a controversial short film that paints a demonic image of Islam.

On 31 March 2008, the Information Ministry gave YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com ) a one-week deadline to remove "Fitna" ("strife" or "disturbance" in Arabic) - a short film which features shots of terrorist acts juxtaposed over Quranic verses - failing which it would be blocked. On 7 April, a few ISPs started to deny access not only to YouTube but also MySpace ( http://www.myspace.com ) and Google Video ( http://video.google.ca/ ).

Around 150 other Internet service providers in the country have yet to implement the order, which stays until the websites remove the film, reports said.

Home to the biggest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia nevertheless maintains a secular government, which justified its disproportionate action in denying access to millions of videos on account of one film by claiming that the said film "could disturb relations between the faiths".

The 15-minute film found its way to the Internet on 27 March after its creator, the anti-immigration Dutch politician Geert Wilders, rejected conditions for local television broadcast, chiefly on the right to edit.

Wilders said the film was intended as a warning of a "tsunami of Islamisation" in the Netherlands, where there are nearly one million Muslims. Nonetheless, the controversial film has generated mostly condemnation from Muslims around the world, and the threats have spilled over onto online media providers who posted it, driving some to remove the film out of fear of harm befalling them.

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