Indonesian sex videos may trigger internet crackdown

President backs web curbs after ‘Peterporn’ goes viral, reports Asia Sentinel

With millions of Indonesian absolutely transfixed for almost a month over the widespread distribution of homemade videotapes involving three popular local celebrities involved in hardcore sex, the matter has started to take on more ominous overtones. Friday President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he would lend his support for a filter to block pornography on the Internet.

Given Indonesia’s uncertain flirtation with a more conservative Islamic society, the videotapes are raising concerns among liberals that the pace will pick up. An Anti-Pornography Act was pushed through in 2008 more because Yudhoyono and his nominal allies believed they needed the conservative Islamic vote in 2009 elections than because of any public outrage.

Prosecutors, the judiciary and the police largely ignored the law, saying it was too vague to enforce in a variegated country made up of a vast collection of ethnic groups and religious groupings ranging from largely Hindu Bali, where village traditions remain strong, to Papua, where penis gourds are still common in the hinterlands; to Jakarta, with its nightclubs, malls and glitz; and to liberal, largely Christian north Sulawesi.

Today, however, in the House of Representatives lawmakers now are lining up behind plans by Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring of the conservative Islamist Prosperous Justice Party to use the scandal to revive a move to filter the Web for content deemed “negative” and immoral. Sembirang said he would promulgate a decree by the end of the year to “save the young” from Internet porn. Religious leaders, parents and others have been lining up to support controlling the Web as well. On Sunday, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, added her voice, saying the law should be enforced in the video case.

“This case has caused many women concern, including me. Why do the public and the younger generations consume this kind of thing?” Megawati told reporters.

Even China has backed away from an Internet filter. But Indonesia, 86 percent of whose 243 million residents are Muslim, has been alternatively scandalized and titillated by the online release of the films, which allegedly featured Nazril Ilham, 28, an Indonesian rock star known as Ariel, and television personalities Luna Maya, 26, and Cut Tari, 32. All have denied being in the films, saying those filmed were someone else. Because Ariel sings with a group called Peterpan, the films have inevitably been dubbed Peterporn.