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IFJ condemns court ruling on Balibo ban

(IFJ/IFEX) - August 10, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed to learn that the Jakarta State Administrative Court in Indonesia has upheld a ban on an award-winning film depicting the murder of Australian journalists in 1975.

A ruling by a panel of judges on August 6 agreed with the Film Censorship Board (LSF) that the controversial film Balibo could "reopen old wounds" and that the board had fulfilled required administrative procedures to ban it, the Jakarta Post reported.

The film, which was prevented from being screened at the Jakarta Film Festival in 2009, tells the story of the murder of six Australian journalists in East Timor as Indonesia sought to annex it in November 1975.

IFJ affiliates the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Indonesia and the Media Alliance in Australia condemned the court's decision and urged Indonesia's authorities to intervene to permit the critically acclaimed film to be shown in Indonesia.

Contesting the ban, AJI argued in court that the censorship was a violation of the public's right to information. It plans to appeal the decision to uphold the ban.

"The Indonesian Government's continued attempts to stifle an important story, one which is already well-known around the globe, undermines the rights of its citizens to hear the full story of what happened when the six journalists were killed," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The IFJ, with its Australian and Indonesian affiliates, reaffirms its commitment to overturn the ban on Balibo and to ensure people in both countries have uncensored access to the film and other credible reports regarding the journalists who were killed in 1975."

Balibo was banned on the grounds that it depicted violence and that the film had only used Australian and East Timor sources, a matter that concerned the Indonesian Government, reports said. The military has been particularly sensitive on the topic.

The IFJ and affiliates call on Indonesian authorities to reinvestigate the Balibo case and other journalist killings in the country, to send a clear message that justice will be served against those who attempt to muzzle a free press through violent means.

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