Indonesian censors ban 'Balibo'

Private screening canceled; film also out of Jakarta fest

HONG KONG -- Indonesian censors Tuesday stopped the screening of the Australian movie "Balibo."
 
The film, by Robert Connolly, recounts the killing in 1975 of five Australian TV journalists allegedly murdered by Indonesian special forces. Indonesian authorities have consistently maintained that the "Balibo Five" were caught in crossfire as the army fought East Timor Fretilin rebels.
 
"Balibo" was to have been shown as a private screening at the Blitz Megaplex Grand Indonesia cinema organized by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club. But minutes after the scheduled screening time JFCC president Jason Tedjasukmana announced "the LSF (Film Censorship Agency) officially banned it today." 


Although Tuesday's planned showing was a private function only open to journalists and invited guests, the JFCC was warned that as the cinema is a public place they risked criminal prosecution if they went ahead with the screening.
        
The picture had also been selected to the Jakarta International Film Festival although whether it would actually play was always going to depend on an LSF decision.
        
Last month the LSF convened a special committee to vet the film that the government had already branded as "offensive." No explanation for the ban was given although it was confirmed by Jiffest chief Nauval Yazid. "They told us that we cannot show the movie. The reason was not really clear. It is likely because of concerns that it will affect relations with East Timor and Australia."
 
In 2006 the LSF prevented Jiffest screening several films about East Timor because of similar concerns. The following year an Australian coroner concluded that the five were shot and repeatedly stabbed by Indonesian soldiers as they tried to surrender. The coroner called for war crimes charges against several Indonesian military officers, including Captain Yunus Yosfiah.
 
The release of "Balibo" in Australia earlier this year came just weeks before federal police announced they would conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the killings, a move that sparked some diplomatic tensions.
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