Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring’s plan to ban BlackBerry service in Indonesia unless it filters pornographic content is a threat to our democratic way of life.
We should be proud of international recognition of Indonesia as the most democratic nation in Southeast Asia, but Tifatul’s warning will threaten to end our fight to preserve freedom of speech as part of basic human rights.
In his ultimatum, Tifatul gives a Jan. 21 deadline to Research in Motion (RIM) to block all access to porn sites or else six providers in Indonesia, as RIM partners, will be asked to stop their BlackBerry service.
Protests have streamed into Tifatul’s Twitter account from some 2.5 million BlackBerry users in Indonesia since the warning was issued on Jan. 7.
Banning people from using their gadgets, including BlackBerry, to browse information is obviously an intervention in private life.
This is a violation of human rights as stated in the 1945 Constitution Article 28F, which says that
everyone has the right to communicate and retrieve information to develop themselves and their
As a consequence, the government must respect people’s right to privacy and refrain from any forms of censorship. The state must not intrude into the private lives of citizens.
In China, the communist government blocks pornographic contents, while in fact it is censoring any opposition views toward the regime.
Once censorship on the Internet is implemented, censorship in other aspects of life will follow, and next we will be welcoming the New Order Part Two.
According to a feminist theory, a regulation over body and mind is a start to further regulation of civil and political freedom — thereby producing the “personal is political” phrase.
Based on this phrase, personal is political, pornographic matters should be handled from a personal rather than political level.
Censoring the Internet looks like trying to sweeten the sea, which is impossible to do. There are millions of porn sites on the Internet, and there are many other channels for pornography to intrude into our lives.
We cannot block all pornographic materials. Moreover, there is always a chance for blocked content to still be accessed.
Therefore, the success rate in preventing pornography, from the political side, is very low. Looking at the size of the Communications and Information Technology Ministry, this would be an impossible task.
Excessive efforts to suppress pornography will put civil freedom in danger. Therefore, we should handle pornographic matters from a personal and individual consciousness level.
The government must instead focus its program on providing wider access to the Internet all over the country.
Based on Google trends search, countries with strict moral policies are precisely the same countries that have the highest rate of citizens accessing porn content.
Topping the list is Pakistan, with Indonesia at fifth, as countries which have searched “sex” as the keyword the most. This is proof that strict moral policy would not be effective.
Instead of censorship, we should provide young people with sex education and instruction on how to use the Internet wisely.
The young generation should be empowered in dealing with their sexuality and obtaining information related to the issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) from credible sources.
It can be said that young people become curios about sex and porn materials because they lack credible information on this matter.
Therefore, discussion about sexuality should be opened to youths, particularly by their parents, to make them better understand and respect their bodies.
Sexuality is not a taboo. Making sex taboo is like calling the existence of life taboo. Research conducted by Susan M. Blake (Susan M. Blake, et al; 2001) revealed that children whose parents talk with them about sexual matters or provide sex education or contraceptive information at home are more likely than others to postpone sexual activities.
The children have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to use contraceptives such as condoms.
They are at reduced risk for pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases than young people whose parents do not engage in open communication about sexual matters.
National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh has deemed sex education as unimportant because children will get to know sex by themselves as soon they mature and get married.
However, a recent survey conducted by the National Family Planning Board (BKKBN) shows that around 50 percent of young teenagers in Greater Jakarta have been sexually active.
The lack of information and ignorance of this phenomenon amounts to a disaster for youths as it will spark unwanted pregnancies and spread the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Sex education is a must, and the need for it is urgent. It must be formulated in a specific curriculum to ensure that youths have knowledge about their bodies and sexuality, and can thereby act make more responsible choices.
The writer works for the Women Journal Foundation.