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Despite critics and setbacks, anti-porn Minister says he is ahead

Indonesia's anti-porn crusader claims victory

Government minister Tifatul Sembiring says he is winning the war on porn Government minister Tifatul Sembiring says he is winning the war on porn
  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • July 31, 2012
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He has made fighting pornography on the internet his public mission. Now after two years of battle, Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring admits there is still more to be done, but he is claiming victory so far.

Not long ago, most internet users say, it was straightforward to access porn on the internet in Indonesia, despite a law explicitly banning such content in November, 2008.

Then Sembiring, member of the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party and self-described conservative Muslim, took up the fight.

A key part of his department's strategy was to offer rewards in return for details of sexual content on the web. That sparked a huge outpouring of information and a drastic rise in the number of banned sites.

After bluntly telling internet service providers to actively block sexual content at the end of 2010, Sembiring told Research In Motion to do the same on Blackberries, which are used by more than three million people in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.

Gregory Wade, RIM’s regional director, said the company was “fully committed to providing a solution” and promptly blocked pornographic content on its servers, accepting the risk that that it may lose share in its largest south east Asian market.

Sembiring was just as happy to lay down the law with celebrities. In mid-2010, pop music fans were left in tears when Nazril Irhan, lead singer of the country’s most popular band Peterpan, was jailed after a grainy video which showed him having sex with his girlfriend was posted on the internet. The 30-year-old star was freed this month.

However, he has not been without his critics. The government has been accused of of hypocrisy, following a number of sex and pornography scandals involving politicians. Last year, Arifinto, a lawmaker from the same party as Sembiring and a backer of the pornography legislation, was caught viewing a sex tape on his touchscreen notebook during a session of parliament. He swiftly resigned.

For others, the crackdown has not gone far enough. Arist Merdeka Sirait of the National Commission for Child Protection said hundreds of inappropriate sites still slip through the net.

“Today one site could be shut down but tomorrow there could be more than 10 new sites,” he said. “For every 10 shut down 1,000 new ones emerge. When is it going to stop?”

Sembiring himself has conceded that "there are still millions out there, all foreign hosted.”

Access to these images remains well within the grasp of tech-savvy youngsters, said Rudi, a teenager who declined to give his full name.

He said many sites were no longer generally available, “but I hear that my friends can still access them."

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