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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs  14 October 2010

Indo court ruling ends book banning by state

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An important Indonesian court ruling Wednesday erases a 1963 law on book-banning.

The Constitutional Court's ruling stripped the Attorney General's Office of its authority to ban books it deemed controversial. The institution has banned 22 books since 2006, including 13 history text books for use in junior and senior high schools.

Howeve,r books can still be banned; judges said the decision to remove books from circulation should rest with the courts.

"This is a turning point in history," said Darmawan, an author whose book was banned by the AGO in late 2009, after the court read out its verdict. "We [authors] now regain our courage to write more books."

His Enam Jalan Menuju Tuhan (Six Paths to God) was among the books that made the blacklist in late 2009, along with four others, including Dalih Pembunuhan Massal Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Soeharto (Pretext for Mass Murder: The Sept. 30th Movement and Soeharto's Coup d'Etat in Indonesia) by Jhon Roosa and Mengungkap Misteri Keberagaman Agama (Resolving the Mystery of Religious Diversity) by Syahrudin Ahmad.

Darmawan and other authors whose books were banned had filed for a judicial review of the 1963 law on confiscation of printed materials whose content could disrupt public order.

The court ruled that the law was against the Constitution as it violated basic human rights by granting officials the authority to ban books without due process of law.

"The sole authority of the Attorney General to ban the distribution of printed materials without due process of law is a characteristic of an authoritarian state and not a law-based state like Indonesia," Constitutional justice Muhammad Alim said.

The book-banning law, often used under former president Soeharto's rule, saw revival in 2006, two years into President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's tenure

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