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Editor of Indonesian Playboy magazine jailed -

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Editor of Indonesian Playboy magazine jailed

Broadcast: 15/10/2010

Reporter: Anne Maria Nicholson

The editor of Indonesia's now defunct Playboy magazine has been jailed for two years for committing
public indecency.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The editor of Indonesia's now defunct Playboy magazine was jailed for two
years last weekend for committing public indecency, even though the publication never displayed any
nudity.

This recent case highlights a climate of increased censorship of magazines, photographs, sculptures
and paintings in Indonesia.

The issue of censorship was high on the agenda at a recent writers festival in Bali where artists
reported their works were increasingly banned, attacked and even destroyed, usually by religious
groups.

Anne Maria Nicholson has this report from the Ubud Writers Festival.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON, REPORTER: Art, beauty and dance: they're central to Indonesia's traditional
culture. So it was natural that dancers welcomed in authors from around the world. But this was
Hindu Bali where attitudes are liberal and art abounds.

Elsewhere in the country, politically powerful religious groups are flexing their muscles against
secularism.

VALENTINE WILLIE, ART DEALER: In terms of vigilante groups - that's, you know, the violent minority
that goes around and threatening to burn (inaudible) - that's on the rise.

It's religious-based and obviously there's also social condition.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Valentine Willie runs a string of commercial art galleries in South East Asia
and says in the last five years there's been a marked rise in protests against artists, leading to
bans and even attacks on artworks in the region.

VALENTINE WILLIE: In all four galleries that I run in the region we have the same problem. The
issue constantly arises, whether it is state censorship, whether it is commercial censorship,
whether it is vigilantes in Indonesia, or worst still, self censorship.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: At a forum at the Ubud Writers Festival, artists told stories of how they'd
fallen foul of self-appointed censors.

Nyoman Nuarta is Indonesia's leading sculptor with an international reputation. In June his giant
steel sculpture of three women in traditional clothing was torn down from its site in a housing
complex in West Java. Hardline Muslim groups said it was a Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity.

The artist was stunned as police stood by not stopping its removal.

NYOMAN NUARTA, SCULPTOR: I called the Police General... why? They don't know what I can do because
we're facing the mass with the flag of religion. That is the problem I think.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Nuarta says that as Indonesia has become more democratic post-Suharto,
there's less artistic freedom. He frequently sculpts female figures, and has never encountered such
a violent reaction before.

NYOMAN NUARTA: That is something ironic to me. In the Suharto era when the regime was so strong and
maybe western say he was like a dictator, but I have never had an experience like now where my
sculpture has to be torn down in an era of reformation of our democratic country.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Valentine Willie says the sculpture reflected centuries of classical art.

VALENTINE WILLIE: Three Graces. I mean all the way back to the Renaissance and then of course the
idea of three itself is sacred. But, you know, it's just small mindedness - that's what it is.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Nudity in art stretches back thousands of years, but when this painting
playfully pre-censored by the artist was shown at the Jakarta Biennale, it enraged local Islamic
groups who successfully had the work removed.

VALENTINE WILLIE: It was also a work about censorship itself. So they cut out all the private
parts. But even that wasn't good enough for the Mullahs.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: While nudity and depictions of gods upset conservative Asian communities, Art
Monthly editor Maurice O'Riordan detailed how Australians reacted strongly to suggestions of child
pornography. The seizure and subsequent debate about Bill Henson's photos of naked teenagers led to
tougher laws and protocols about depicting children in art.

MAURICE O'RIORDAN, ART MONTHLY AUSTRALIA: I think there is, you know, long-term concerns from some
artists who've had to rethink their practice, particularly where it relates to children and
photography.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: O'Riordan's reaction to the Bill Henson furore was to feature a portrait of a
naked child on the cover of Art Monthly. The picture was taken by the child's mother, Polexini.
There were calls for the taxpayer funding to be removed from the magazine. While that remained,
there was financial punishment.

MAURICE O'RIORDAN: The legacy is that around the time of that controversy for us, we did lose the
support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They were like a major subscriber. They
were circulating the magazine to all the embassies.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Not long after the controversy, O'Riordan displayed the magazine at a
Shanghai arts trade fair without incident.

MAURICE O'RIORDAN: They had no problem whatever with Polexini's image, and in fact, you know, a lot
of press around the world actually were able to reproduce that image with no need to censor the
supposedly erogenous zones of a six-year-old. So yes, China wasn't alone.

But it was kind of - it made me think that it was peculiar to Australia. But I think there are
global ramifications too.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: For artists throughout the region, the message is becoming clearer: artistic
freedom comes at a high cost, especially when it clashes with religious taboos.

Anne Maria Nicholson, Lateline.