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83 intellectuals and pro-democracy activists reject book bannings

Detik.com - January 8, 2010

Andi Saputra, Jakarta Ė In response to the recent banning of five books and moves by Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar to examine 20 more for possible banning, 83 intellectuals and pro-democracy activists have rejected the banning of books by the government.

"I don't know how the minister of justice and human rights understands human rights. This is a step back for democracy," said one of the declarators of the group Reject Book Bannings (Menolak Pelarangan Buku), Goenawan Muhamad at the Nikko Hotel on Jl. MH Thamrin in Jakarta on Friday January 8.

Also present was Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) advisory board member Adnan Buyung Nasution, Islamic intellectual Ulil Abshar Abdala, women's activist Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Freedom Institute researcher Luthfie Assyaukani, film director Riri Riza and poet Sitok Srengenge.

The groups said that it if the government continues banning books, it will create a fear of expressing and exchanging ideas and inhibit artistic and intellectual exploration. Banning books will also hamper the free intellectual development of the nation.

"This is a symptom of retreat from the process of democracy that I challenge," said Nasution.

The banning of books can only be justified if they obviously spread racial, religious and ethnic hatred along with propaganda supporting violence or war.

These restrictions should be applied through a judicial process that is honest, free and unbiased. This is especially so in the digital era and the internet where banning books will not stop them from being read.

"I totally reject the banning of books because it contradicts freedom of expression", concluded Nursyahbani Kajtasungkana. (asp/fay)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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