Indonesians flock to Balibo screenings


January 12, 2010


Thousands of Indonesians have flocked to guerrilla screenings of Balibo since the Australian film was banned last month.

Indonesia's Film Censorship Agency banned Robert Connolly's Balibo just hours before its Jakarta premiere in December, due to its political content.

The acclaimed film depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering five Australia-based newsmen in the East Timorese border town of Balibo in 1975, contradicting the official explanation they were killed in crossfire.

But Indonesia's Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) has defied the ban, risking jail terms and heavy fines by staging a series of free public screenings across the country.

The final screening will take place in Bali on Wednesday.

"Thousands of people have watched it at AJI screenings in more than 20 cities all over Indonesia," AJI's Ezki Suyanto said.

"It's been welcomed warmly everywhere."

At one screening in the Javan city of Bandung about 700 people turned out to see the film that few Indonesians had heard of before the ban.

AJI says it is still contemplating launching a legal challenge against the ban.

"At this moment, we're still considering which court to go," said AJI lawyer Hendrayana, who goes by only one name.

The film's release in Australia last year came just weeks before Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced they would conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the killings.

The probe follows a 2007 coronial inquest that concluded Indonesia deliberately killed the journalists to cover up their East Timor invasion.


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