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IFJ urges Indonesia and Australia to act on Balibo killings

(IFJ/IFEX) - 8 March 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on Indonesia's government to reverse a ban on an award-winning film depicting the murder of Australian journalists in 1975, and urges Australia's government to raise the killings with Indonesian President Bambang Yudhoyono when he visits Australia this week.

Christopher Warren, a member of the IFJ Asia-Pacific steering committee and federal secretary of Australia's journalists' union, the Media Alliance, has written to Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, urging him to raise the issue of the killings and the ban on "Balibo" with Dr Yudhoyono this week.

The film, which was prevented from being screened at the Jakarta Film Festival last year, tells the story of the murder of six Australian journalists in East Timor as Indonesia sought to annex it in November 1975.

The call by the Alliance comes as another IFJ affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Indonesia, filed a lawsuit in the State Administrative Court against the Indonesian Censorship Institute (known as the LSF) for its decision to ban "Balibo".

AJI argues the ban, which was introduced in December, is a violation of the public's right to information.

"This week's visit to Australia by Dr Yudhoyono is a very real opportunity to discuss a major impediment to our two countries developing a truly cooperative and cordial relationship; the events of November 1975 and the murder of six Australian journalists," Warren said.

"At present, the Indonesian government will not even permit the film 'Balibo' to be screened in public. Indonesia's foreign minister has said that the ban aims to protect his country's image abroad. This ban, in fact, has the opposite effect of suggesting that Indonesia's commitment to a free and open media is less than whole-hearted."

The IFJ stands firmly with its Australian and Indonesian affiliates in seeking to overturn the ban on "Balibo" and to ensure citizens of both countries are provided with full information about the circumstances in which the six journalists were killed.

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