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AGO claims exclusive authority
to ban books

Fake it: A trader compares pirated and original versions of the Cikeas Octopus, a controversial bestselling book about President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s family business, at Palasari market, Bandung, West Java, on Monday. The photocopied version sells for Rp 80,000 and the original copy Rp 125,000. Antara/Agus Bebeng

While calls mount for the government to stop banning books, the Attorney General’s Office and the Justice and Human Rights Ministry are not seeing eye to eye over which institution has the authority to do so.

Apparently irritated by statements made by Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar
who said last week that his office was currently reviewing some 20 books to see if they should be banned, the AGO asserted here Monday that only the Attorney General had the authority to ban books.

“Others can only give recommendations,” AGO spokesman Didiek Darmanto told reporters at his office in Jakarta.

He said the Justice and Human Rights Ministry was not even included on the inter-departmental “Clearing House” team authorized to review books considered controversial.

The team will consist of officials from the police, State Intelligence Agency (BIN), the Indonesian Military (TNI), the Religious Affairs Ministry and the National Education Ministry.

“Results of the review from the team will then be submitted to the Attorney General,” he said.

The AGO referred to two laws that give them the authority to ban books. They included Article 30 of the 2006 law on the AGO related to maintaining public order, which specifies the AGO has the authority to monitor the circulation of printed materials, and a 1963 law that specifies the Attorney General has the power to forbid the circulation of printed materials that could disrupt public order.

No regulations, however, specify that other ministries have similar powers, but in a surprising announcement last week, Patrialis said that his ministry had judged 20 books as very dangerous to the public because they were all anti-government.

“We are currently evaluating 20 books that we consider provocative, and could lead to disintegration within our nation,” Patrialis said.

One official said the books largely concerned self determination, pluralism, spirituality, corruption and history.

Speculation has emerged that George Junus Aditjondro’s recently released book, Membongkar Gurita Cikeas: Dibalik Skandal Bank Century (Unmasking the Cikeas Octopus: Behind the Bank Century Scandal) suggests a link between Pre-sident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Bank Century bailout scandal.

Previously the AGO banned five books, including Dalih Pembunuhan Massal Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Soeharto (Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Soeharto’s Coup d’Etat) by John Roosa.

Human rights activists demanded the government and the House of Representatives amend laws authorizing book banning, saying they were  preparing to file judicial review requests with the Constitutional Court.

The National Commission on Human Rights said on Monday the AGO had committed human rights violations by banning books.

“We will ask the government to amend the laws allowing books to be banned.”

Ifdhal said the country had entered the reform era and should not have such laws forbidding people to express their ideas.

“Let the judges decide who is wrong,” he said. (nia)

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