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by Mathias Hariyadi
10/18/10 Indonesia (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi – Mk) issued a ruling last October 13 to strip the attorney general of his power to censor and ban books. The ruling is a major step forward for freedom of expression in Indonesia. In January this year Rahmat Bagja and Fatahillah Hoed, two lawyers from the Center for Information Law, presented a petition to the Constitutional Court to revoke Law 4/PNPS/1963, which provided the legal basis for the prosecutor to ban books. It had been maintained during the administration of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

In the plenary session on October 13, judge Mahfud MD said: “The current law no 4/PNPS/1963 violates the Indonesian Constitution of 1945, so it should be withdrawn and no longer respected”. This law allowed president Suharto during his dictatorship (1967-1998), to manipulate the office of Attorney General to crush any political “enemy” censoring books and printed material that contained criticism of the government.

The report presented in January stated that since 2006 the Attorney General has banned at least 22 books, including 13 history texts for middle schools and high schools. These books referred in particular to the controversial issue of the failed Communist coup of September 30, 1965, which brought Suharto to power after the murder of seven army generals. The thesis of the volume claimed that the tragedy was caused by internal army issues – a thesis that President Suharto and his regime had always denied.

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