Rights groups Condemn Censorship of Discussions of 1965

30 Oct 2015

We strongly condemn intimidation and threats against those in Indonesia who are trying to shed light on one of the worst crimes of the 20th century. In the past week, Indonesian authorities have forced the destruction of a periodical focused on the massacres in Indonesia that began 50 years ago. Officials also threatened to forcibly close this year's Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali unless events on the massacres were cancelled. The festival organizers regrettably agreed.

Beginning in 1965, with U.S. and British assistance and encouragement, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands of people were imprisoned and held without charge in Indonesia for up to ten years. Thirteen thousand men were banished to a remote, infertile island called Buru, Maluku, and left to fend for themselves. Hundreds of women suffered a similar fate by being banished to Plantungan in Central Java. This nationwide crackdown was condemned by people throughout the world, including Amnesty International.

In 2012, the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia published the results of a four-year investigation into these killings in several parts of the country and condemned the crackdown as a "crime against humanity." It called on the Attorney General's Office to conduct investigations so as to be able to bring those responsible to justice. But to this day, no government in Indonesia has acknowledged the fact that millions of its own citizens were massacred, imprisoned and tortured. None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.

We strongly condemn the police in Salatiga for forcing students at Satya Wacana Christian University to burn all the copies of Lentera. Authoritarian regimes burn books and censor uncomfortable truths. However, burning books can never erase people's memories. On the contrary, it draws attention to events which the authorities are so determined to conceal.

In Bali, official threats led to the cancellation of three panels focused on the mass killings. A screening of Joshua Oppenheimer's powerful documentary The Look of Silence, even though his earlier film, The Act of Killing, was shown several years ago at the festival.

"It's almost like censorship has become fashionable overnight again," an organizer of the 12-year-old festival told the media
We applaud the editorial board of Lentera and the organizers of the Ubud festival for their courageous decisions to draw attention to these despicable events.

These acts of censorship are grave violations of freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in the Constitution of Indonesia and international human rights treaties to which Indonesia is a party.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo arrives shortly for a state visit to the United States. U.S. officials, media and others should challenge him on this resurgence of censorship and other ongoing human rights violations in Indonesia.

Carmel Budiardjo, Founder, TAPOL (UK)

John M. Miller, National Coordinator, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

Ed McWilliams, West Papua Advocacy Team, former U.S. State Department Foreign Service officer

David Webster, WPAT

contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-917-690-4391, john@etan.org