Indonesia Banning Freedom Of Expression?

photo by Karli KK Munn

A recent bill was proposed by Indonesian lawmakers to ban the spread of negative foreign influences on Indonesian music as well as things deemed inappropriate by the government. This bill infringes on Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution which gives the right of freedom of speech. The government has denied any claims of trying to curb freedom of expression. The bill is trying to ban any foreign influences on music that are determined to be pornographic or blasphemous. This is a backlash from the government over the appearance and lyrical content of American pop singers and K-pop groups.

Indonesian musicians have voiced their outrage at the bill saying it would be similar to returning to their authoritarian days. As an advocate for freedom of expression I find this bill to be absurd. Not only would it censor and ban artists from the country, it would take away freedom of expression and the freedom to disagree with their government publicly from Indonesian artists. This law can be seen as an attack on the arts community as well as infringement on democracy itself by controlling what citizens can and can’t see. If this were to occur in America there would be outcry from musicians and music consumers alike. People would be up in arms marching on Washington.

Many see this as Indonesia returning to its age of their first president. In the 1960’s Indonesian citizens were barred from listening to Western music under the grounds that it was a form of Western imperialism. This is identical to the bill they are trying to pass that disallows “negative foreign influences” on music but ‘negative’ is such a broad term it would be easy for the government to ban all outsider music under the guise of maintaining Indonesian culture.

Indonesian musicians have shown their outrage through a petition against the bill that has garnered 270,000 signatures. Along with this there are protests occurring outside of the countries capital. Many musicians have said they will not let this bill infringe on their rights regardless of potential fines of jail time as a right to express their beliefs is more important. Many in the punk scene are worried about their ability to show dissent towards the government, a cultural element that spans all punk scenes.

The bill is still in its creation stage and nothing is set in stone yet. Government officials claim they do not want to infringe on freedom of speech and that this is a way to protect artists. We will have to wait and see how this all pans out but I do not see it going over without a fight from the Indonesian music scene.


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