April, 13 2006 @ 10:56 pmNo Nudity, But Militants Still Attack Playboy Office
The radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has made good on its threat to attack the office of the newly launched Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine, even though the publication contains no nudity, not even an outline of a nipple.
More than 200 FPI members at 2pm Wednesday (12/4/06) gathered outside the magazine`s office located on the third floor of the AAF Building on Jalan Simatupang in South Jakarta to demand the magazine cease publication.
Some of the protesters spent about 20 minutes throwing stones at the building, smashing windows and glass doors. Dressed in their trademark white robes and turbans, the radicals also demonstrated their capacity for intellectual debate by smashing lamps in the buildings car park. They then gleefully tore up copies of the magazine while repeatedly shouting “Allahu Akbar! [God is Great!]”.
About 90 policemen, most of them not equipped with anti-riot shields and helmets, had been deployed to guard the building. They immediately ran in all directions when the stones started flying. Many took cover behind cars, while others scurried to fetch anti-riot shields that had been left in police trucks. A few braver officers chased some of the FPI members but were reluctant to make any arrests because they were intimidated and heavily outnumbered. Two officers suffered head injuries when hit by stones and were rushed bleeding to nearby Fatmawati Public Hospital.
Police tried to negotiate with the protest leaders for an end to the violence. Meanwhile, several of the magazines employees, mostly women, secretly left the premises via a back entrance. The mob failed to notice the departure of the employees and eventually dispersed at about 3pm, still shouting “Allahu Akbar!”.
FPI member Salim Ali Hamid warned that Playboy could expect more attacks if it refuses to stop publishing.
Prior to the attack, the FPI protesters had rallied outside National Police headquarters on Jalan Trunojoyo to demand the magazines publisher and advertisers be punished. They said the magazine had used a tame cover to disguise obscene photos. "Playboy magazine has a polite cover but contains pornography because its shows vulgar photos that arouse lust,” said one of the orators.
Fans of erotica disagree strongly and have jokingly threatened to protest that the magazine should be forced to show nudity. Many existing local magazines and tabloids show much more skin than Playboy Indonesia, while pirated hardcore pornographic movies are widely available due to police corruption.
FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab was permitted to enter National Police headquarters to submit his demands for the punishment of Playboy Indonesias publisher and advertisers. Outside, his followers tore up and burned some copies of the magazine.
"Punish them, including the companies that have advertised in Playboy magazine and thereby intentionally taken part in sponsoring the publication of this pornographic magazine,” Shihab was quoted as saying by detikcom online news portal.
The protesters then moved to the Attorney Generals Office on nearby Jalan Sultan Hasanuddin, demanding that Playboy Indonesias publishing license be revoked. They also called for the immediate execution of three radical Christians sentenced to death over sectarian violence in Central Sulawesi province.
After taking a break for prayers, the protesters announced they would go to Playboy Indonesia`s office.
The magazine, which is probably the worlds least titillating version of Playboy, went on sale on April 7 with a cover price of Rp39,000 and a strikingly dull red cover. Thanks to massive media hype and public controversy, it quickly sold out at many outlets and has since been changing hands for up to Rp100,000. The magazine is published by PT Velvet Silver Media.
Although severely lacking in erotic photos, the first edition contains an interview with Indonesias most famous author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, as well as articles on Aceh, East Timor, Toyota cars and religion.
FPI is best known for attacking bars, nightclubs, brothels, billiard halls and more recently the US Embassy.
Publisher Calls For Peace
Playboy Indonesias editorial director/editor-in-chief Erwin Arnada, who is also a director of PT Velvet Silver Media, said differences of public opinion on the magazine should not be resolved through violence.
He said PT Velvet Silver Media was committed to obeying the law. "We fully respect the publics right to express their views on this magazine. But such expression must be made peacefully and not ignore the rights of other people,” he said in a press statement.
Arnada said Playboy Indonesia had not broken the law because it did not contain explicit photographs. "We took steps to avoid this magazine receiving a negative response from readers. One of our efforts was to sell the magazine sealed in plastic and write a notice on the cover that it is for mature readers.”
He said the magazine was only being sold through selected bookstores, magazine agencies and other retailers. "Our target is mature urban readers aged 25-45 years old. In less than five days, almost all copies of the first edition of Playboy Indonesia magazine were sold out,” he added.
Arnada said his company had carefully reviewed the magazines content before the launch and sought opinions from writers, cultural experts, religious leaders and media analysts to ensure the content was in accordance with Indonesian law.
Police to Prosecute FPI
South Jakarta Police chief Senior Commissioner Wiliardi Wizar said legal action would be taken against FPI`s leaders and those involved in the violence at the magazines office.
"Our task was basically
only to protect the building, as it used by many other members of the public… We had tried to use persuasive measures [to calm down the FPI protest], but suddenly the situation went out of control, resulting in two of our officers sustaining head wounds when struck by stones… We will prosecute FPI because our two officers were injured. We will also summon Habib Rizieq today,” he said.
Separately, National Police spokesman Brigadier General Anton Bahrul Alam said there would be a full investigation into the attack. He said the police would continue to provide protection to those facing potentially violent protests.
He also said the National Police was awaiting expert legal guidance on whether Playboy Indonesia had violated any laws.
In the West Java capital of Bandung, about 100 FPI members staged an anti-Playboy demonstration at the Gedung Sate building on Jalan Diponegoro on Wednesday. They burned copies of the magazine and condemned its contents as pornographic.
"The name itself is pornographic, as well as the contents,” said protest coordinator Asep Syariffudin.
In an effort to drum up public support for their campaign, the FPI members said they were launching about 20 “command posts” in Bandung to organize raids aimed at confiscating pornography and “crushing Playboy”.
"The sweeping will continue. Yesterday we visited Gramedia, Braga and Cikapundung [bookstores]. FPI`s Bandung chapter has recorded several distribution points where Playboy magazine is being circulated in the city,” said Syarifuddin.
He said the raids would also focus on confiscating other mens interest magazines, such as FHM, Popular and Matra. "If they are still in circulation within three days we will get violent,” he warned.
Peoples Consultative Assembly speaker Hidayat Nurwahid, who also wants Playboy banned, said FPI should refrain from anarchic actions in its effort to “sweep” the magazine out of Indonesia.
He warned that violent demonstrators would damage the image of Muslims and could face criminal charges.
"Our colleagues who did the sweeping should not conduct such sweeping in an anarchic manner,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
Despite opposing the violence, Hidayat said police must close down the magazine and charge its publisher under the Criminal Code for publishing a “pornographic” magazine.
He claimed Playboy Indonesia was pornographic simply because of its famous title, even though it does not contain any pornographic images. He said the publisher must understand the Indonesian publics “psychological fear” of the magazine because its name and spirit are no different from the pornographic American version.
"Is McDonald`s Indonesia any different from the one in America? In the long-run [Playboy Indonesia] will be the same [as the American version] even though the first edition did not show that [nudity]. This is merely a wait and see tactic and a test case,” he said.
He did not bother extending his analogy to point out that Indonesians who dont like eating unhealthy overpriced junk-food at McDonald`s can simply chose to eat elsewhere.
Hidayat on Friday claimed the Indonesian people had overwhelmingly rejected the publication of Playboy. An absurd claim given that no referendum on the issue has been carried out.
He said press freedom must not be abused to publish material that could lead to moral decadence, provocation and controversy. "We need freedom with a responsibility to lift our people out of desperation, to develop and to educate them instead of creating something immoral," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.
The former Prosperous Justice Party chairman said the government and law enforcement agencies should “deal wisely” with the publication of Playboy without sacrificing the interests of the public. "From the name alone, the people at large have rejected it," he said, adding the magazines content was likely to become racier in future editions.
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the country`s second largest Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, on Wednesday condemned the use of violence against Playboy Indonesia, but said the government should take legal action against the magazine`s management.
"We have to give priority to the law in a bid to push the government to take legal action," he said after attending a discussion with World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz.
He agreed with Hidayat that the magazine`s name represents pornography, even though the first edition does not feature any nudity. "That is a marketing tactic as the magazine has become an icon of pornography and a medium for the spread of pornographic materials,” he was quoted as saying by Antara.
He expressed regret that Communication and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil had decided not to take legal action against the magazines management. "It seems to me that the communication and information minister has been highly insensitive. This national issue should not only be seen from the legal and formal aspects but also from our conscience."
Cleo Confiscated in Semarang
In the Central Java capital of Semarang, police on Wednesday raided magazine vendors in search of pornographic publications. They did not find any copies of Playboy, but they did confiscate some copies of womens magazine Cleo imported from Singapore.
The police found Cleo for sale at the Gramedia Book Store on Jalan Pandanaran and initially paid Rp80,000 for a copy of the plastic sealed magazine to study whether its content could be classified as pornography. Inside they found a picture of a bare-chested woman and man wearing only underpants.
Semarang Police criminal investigation division chief Commissioner Wisnu Adi Pamungkas decided the picture was sufficiently controversial to justify confiscating copies of the magazine for further investigation.
"We are studying whether or not this is related to pornography. We do not know whether the picture was for an advertisement, health information or something else. We also want to ascertain its source,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
Gramedia did not immediately comment on the raid. Security guards at the bookstore said supervisors were not in the office when the raid occurred.
Before going to Gramedia, police had raided the Mahkota Magazine Agency on Jalan Pusponjolo Tengah but could not find any copies of Playboy or any magazines deemed pornographic.
“This operation was conducted merely in response to concerns within the community over the publication of Playboy. We are only monitoring how far the magazine has circulated,” said Pamungkas.
Separately, the Central Java chapter of the Indonesian Ulemas Council and several other Islamic organizations held a meeting with local police at the MUI Central Java office in the Baiturahman Mosque complex to discuss the publication of Playboy.
They agreed to ask the government to take firm measures against Playboy by limiting its circulation and monitoring its content. "We also asked groups to use good methods [not violent raids] in responding to social problems and to supervise each other, as well to report any media that have nuances of pornography," said MUI Central Java secretary Ahmad Rofiq.
Central Java Police deputy chief Brigadier General Muhibbin said officers could not take any action against Playboy unless it violated the 1999 Press Law.
In the West Sumatra capital of Padang, several members of the provincial legislative assembly on Tuesday urged the local government to issue a ruling to limit the circulation of Playboy. “Otherwise the circulation of this magazine will be regarded as normal and it will damage the younger generation,” said National Mandate Party member Taslim.