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Indonesia court strikes down law allowing government to ban books

The Indonesian Constitutional Court [official website, in Bahasa] on Wednesday overturned [press release, in Bahasa] a law that has allowed the Indonesian government to ban books it deemed controversial for nearly 50 years. The court found [Jakarta Post report] that giving the Attorney General [official website, in Bahasa] the authority to ban books violated the Indonesian Constitution [text] by denying basic human rights without due process of the law. While the government will no longer have the ability to ban books, the power to do so still exists in the courts [Jakarta Globe report]. More than 400 books have been banned in Indonesia over the last 50 years, including 22 books since 2006. The court's ruling will only affect the government's ability to ban books going forward, and books previously banned will remain so. The court upheld the government's ability to monitor the circulation of printed material to maintain public order, but emphasized that this could not amount to the banning or confiscating of those materials.

The decision is a victory for human rights groups that have been pushing for reform in Indonesia. In June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Indonesian government to release secession activists and adhere to international standards of free speech. In April, the Constitutional Court upheld [JURIST report] a controversial anti-blasphemy law enacted in 1965 by the first Indonesian president. The court rejected the legal challenge raised by a coalition of human rights groups and social activists supporting the Wahid Organization, a civil organization that advocates for religious pluralism in Indonesia. In March, the court rejected [JURIST report] a challenge to a controversial anti-pornography law. The law [text, in Bahasa] was purportedly designed to protect younger generations from pornographic and lewd materials. Critics challenged the bill for being too broad, discriminating against women, and targeting aspects of Indonesian tradition and culture, but the court rejected those arguments

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