2 Dec 2009

Indonesia bans Balibo film minutes before Jakarta premiere

10:33 pm on 2 December 2009

The Indonesian government has defended its censors' decision to ban an Australian film about East Timor just hours before it was to premiere in Jakarta.

Indonesia's censorship board - the LSF - made the ruling late on Tuesday night, just hours before a planned premiere screening of Robert Connolly's Balibo.

The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club were forced to cancel the screening just minutes before its scheduled start.

It's believed the Indonesian military influenced the decision of the country's censorship board.

Balibo depicts Indonesian soldiers murdering the five Australia-based newsmen, including New Zealander Gary Cunningham, in the East Timorese border town in 1975, contradicting the official explanation that they were killed in crossfire.

The Indonesian government has defended its censors' decision, labelling the film "negative propaganda".

Indonesian defence ministry spokesman Slamet Hariyanto on Wednesday said the film would have given Indonesia a bad name and defamed its defence force.

The film's release in Australia earlier this year came just weeks before federal police announced they would conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the killings.

The probe follows a 2007 coronial inquest that concluded Indonesia deliberately killed the journalists to cover up their invasion of East Timor.