Indonesia Suharto-era book banning law lifted

Pramoedya Ananta Toer, 2 May 2000
Image caption The works of authors such as the late Pramoedya Ananta Toer were routinely banned by Suharto

Rights groups in Indonesia are hailing a decision by Indonesia's constitutional court to strike down a controversial book banning law.

In place since the 1960s, the law has been used since the days of the former president Suharto.

It was a way for the government to clamp down on any form of public dissent.

Under the law, the government had the right to ban publications that were deemed a threat to public order.

During the regime of former president Suharto, it was regularly used to clamp down on books and publications that were deemed dangerous by the government.

Transition to democracy

It was a useful tool for Suharto, who used it to outlaw any material he saw as a threat to his power.

But the law remained in place even after he stepped down in 1998 after governing Indonesia for three decades, and has been used even after Indonesia made the transition to a democracy.

Long seen as a regulation that was out of touch with Indonesia's new democratic values, human rights groups had called for the law to be revoked.

But it was only after a group of Indonesian writers, whose books last year fell foul of the regulations took their grievances to the constitutional court, that the decision to strike down the law was made.

Activists say the constitutional court's decision is a step in the right direction, but warn the government still has the means to ban books if it wants to.

They say that officials could use Indonesia's anti-pornography law and a 1966 regulation banning communist material as a way to outlaw sensitive material.

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