Indonesia bans "war crimes" film Balibo

Wed Dec 2, 2009 7:06am EST
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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's censors have banned "Balibo," an Australian-made film about five foreign journalists who were killed by Indonesian troops during the 1975 invasion of East Timor.

The killing of the so-called Balibo Five -- two Australians, a New Zealand national, and two Britons -- has been a point of friction between Jakarta and Canberra for years.

The men's families campaigned for the Indonesian officers alleged to be responsible to face justice, with no success, even after East Timor eventually won independence and Indonesia pulled out its troops a decade ago.

Relations between the two countries soured in September when the Australian Federal Police decided to launch a war crimes investigation into the case, and Jakarta had already warned that it would not welcome a showing of the film, directed by Robert Connolly and starring Emmy-winner Anthony LaPaglia.

Indonesia's foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, sought to play down tensions between the two neighbors. He told parliament on Wednesday that the ministry would ensure the ban of "Balibo" did not create further problems in relations with Australia.

The head of the censorship board could not be reached for comment, but his staff said a letter banning the film had been prepared. No reason for the ban has been given yet.

Predominantly Muslim Indonesia has banned films in the past for various reasons.

DVD piracy is also common in the country, however, and bootleg copies of "Balibo" were already available in Jakarta.

The foreign ministry's spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, said in September that while Indonesia was open to foreign movies, it did not want this particular film to be shown because of its "rather offensive" content.   Continued...