INDONESIA: 'Playboy' bashed as local erotic media thrive

Despite Indonesia's saturation of pornographic materials, protesters focus on barring an international magazine

Jakarta Post
Thursday, January 26, 2006

By Hera Diani

Every morning, traffic-jammed commuters throughout Jakarta get something to think about, as street vendors weave through the lines of cars, flashing posters of pouting models, posing in flimsy lingerie.

In the city's Glodok electronics center, pirated pornographic DVDs are often in plain view and the sellers yell out the movie names to passersby.

Then there's the city's news tabloids, full of smutty stories, phone sex advertisements and -- more disturbingly -- lurid accounts of domestic abuse, incest, rape and murder.

This trashy soft-core porn won't take the bulge out of your wallet, prices are as cheap as Rp 1,000 (around 10 US cents) a poster, while the DVDs, newspapers and magazines sell for a little more.

And with pornography so easily available and no restrictions on sales to children, some commentators are puzzling over the sudden outrage from religious groups about the planned publication of an Indonesian version of Playboy magazine.

It seems that while locally pirated porn and sleaze is OK, an international erotic magazine is not. Even if the women will be fully clothed, with the magazine's focus on more "literary" subject matter, as its publisher says.

Playboy is yet to see the light of day, but the protests keep mounting, with Muhammadiyah leader Din Syamsuddin promising to muster other religious leaders to demonstrate against the magazine when, or if, it hits newsstands.

"I don't believe them (the publishers) when they say there won't be nude pictures in (the magazine). I think that's just a strategy that will change later on. If they're not going to publish nude pictures, then change the name so it won't be associated with the original (Playboy)," Din, the head of the country's second-largest Muslim organization, told news portal.

Din urged Playboy trademark-holder PT Velvet Silver Media to abandon its plan to publish the magazine, and asked the government, the House of Representatives and other agencies to take a "firm stance" on it.

However, media observer Ignatius Haryanto of the Institute for Press and Development Studies believes the protests are premature.

"We don't even know what the magazine is like yet. Sure, editions in other countries contain nude pictures, but would it be the same in this country?" he said.

The magazine obviously would have a market, with a certain level of demand. But its distribution could also be limited, he said.

"If there is concern about protecting children and teenagers, then regulate the magazine's distribution. Religious leaders can only make moral appeals, (the government) shouldn't confuse these with legal approaches," Ignatius said.

Another commentator, Veven S.P. Wardhana, said people often had knee-jerk reactions to things they thought were immoral.

"Why should (Playboy) be banned? Why doesn't the government instead ban the cheap publications that children can obtain?"

"If we disagree with it, we should discuss the issue instead of reacting with violence. We can never learn to be a democratic country if there are no freedoms at all," he said.