June, 07 2006 @ 09:03 pm

Playboy Boldly Back On The Streets For Second Edition

Refusing to bow to intimidation and physical violence by Islamic hardliners, the publishers of Playboy Indonesia on Wednesday (7/6/06) released the second edition of their extremely tame men’s magazine, which buyers can honestly say they read “only for the articles”.

The no-nudes Indonesian version of the US magazine launched its first edition on April 7 in a blaze of publicity, helped by weeks of warnings from Islamic groups that the monthly publication would destroy the morality of the nation’s young generation if not stopped. It sold out within a few days, despite the fact that at Rp39,000 a copy it is more expensive than much racier magazines.

Claiming the magazine was a dangerous form of American pornographic propaganda, rock-throwing members of the small but radical Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) on April 12 attacked the magazine’s South Jakarta office. Playboy’s publishing company PT Velvet Silver Media was promptly evicted from the office building the following day. Chief editor and co-publisher Erwin Arnada was later summoned by the Jakarta Police and instructed to cease publication pending an investigation into allegations the magazine violated morality and decency laws. Even the models and photographers were called in by police. Meanwhile, militant Islamic groups continued to threaten violence against Playboy’s staff, as well as companies that had taken out advertisements in the magazine.

Playboy Indonesia subsequently relocated its headquarters to the resort island of Bali, which is predominantly Hindu and more tolerant of scantily clad women. After the month-long hiatus in publication, the second edition was released with little fanfare, yet it’s quickly becoming a must-have magazine.

The second edition’s cover is considerably more appealing than the uninspiring pink cover that emblazoned the first. The new covergirl and centerfold is a brightly smiling blonde Frenchwoman named Amar Doriane, dressed mostly in black lingerie.

Unlike the first edition, the 160-page second edition contains no paid advertisements. Instead, there are almost entirely blank pages featuring only the Playboy bunny logo in different colors and a short message headlined “Playbill”. The message states: “This blank page is dedicated to our loyal clients who were threatened for placing advertisements in this magazine.” Each message then mentions a product that should have appeared, for example: “This page is owned by a cigarette product" and “This page is owned by a cellular telephone product”.

Arnada writes in the latest editorial that Playboy Indonesia was forced to relocate to the Bali capital of Denpasar because of concerns that staff would be unsafe if the magazine had remained based in Jakarta. "The safety and convenience of our employees comes first. People in Bali are more open to ideas, they are more adaptive," he wrote.
"What we experienced over the past month... shows the name is an important thing. Our launch in April was marked by enthusiasm, prejudice, fear and various assumptions," he said.

The editor said that although some legislators have called for the magazine to change its name, publishing Playboy is necessary for Indonesia’s democratic development. "The absence of a growing monopoly of a set of values and views in our beloved country in the end is our final purpose. We believe that is also the target of all of us who live with reason and want to understand the meaning of democracy and a pluralistic society."

Brisk Sales
The second edition has an initial print run of 100,000 copies. Arnada said half would be sold in Bali and half in Java.

The magazine was available early Wednesday in Jakarta, but several news stands are keeping it under the counter. It’s a different matter on the city’s streets, where vendors are hawking the magazine to motorists at traffic lights.

Detikcom online news portal reported that several magazine agencies were afraid to sell Playboy Indonesia because they feared being raided by public order officials. "Indeed, many people are looking for it, but we are frightened. The profit is not so big, but the risk is high," said one agent. Others were more worried of being raided and attacked by the FPI.

Despite the risk of raids, news stands on Jalan Budi Utomo, Central Jakarta, are prominently displaying the magazine. One agent, Simanjuntak, told detikcom he was surprised by the opposition to the magazine because it was clearly not pornographic. "Please look at all of the contents, none of it is pornographic… Only the name gives the impression of pornography.”

Even though consumers know they won’t be getting any nudity in Playboy Indonesia, it appears the second edition may sell as fast as the first. At Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, one newsagent said that by 10am Wednesday he had only six copies left.

The premises for Playboy Indonesia’s new office were provided rent-free by prominent Balinese community figure I Gusti Ngurah Harta, who has organized massive rallies against planned anti-pornography legislation and describes himself as Arnada’s spiritual teacher. He told detikcom the editor was determined the magazine must not be allowed to die. "This is his attitude. He does not submit to force. If it [the magazine] disappears just like that, then this [violence] would continue.”

Harta said another reason for supporting Playboy Indonesia is that it contains at least 70% local content and will promote Bali without necessarily relying on sex. "Its contents really are different to Playboy in other countries."

He revealed that Playboy’s bosses in the US had strongly encouraged the magazine to be based in Bali. "Because Bali is an international territory." He said Playboy Indonesia had only chosen Jakarta as its initial base because most of the staff lived in the national capital.

Harta, who is leader of a group called the Bali People’s Component and chairman of the Balinese martial art foundation Sandhi Murti, said Arnada was one of his students in 1992. "Our relations are already like those of a family.”

Late Bali Circulation
Although the magazine is now based in Bali, the new edition wasn’t being immediately sold on the resort island on Wednesday. That’s because it’s still being printed by PT Percetakan Indo Nasional, which is located on Jalan Tentara Pelajar in Jakarta.

Endang Sancarini, boss of the Swasti Agency, which has been appointed one of Playboy’s main distributors in Denpasar, said the magazine was supposed to have been sent overnight from Jakarta. "But until now I don’t know why it hasn’t arrived yet,” he said, adding he had been to the airport to check for the consignment.

Made Artha, the chairman of Bali’s top Hindu council Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI), said he did not object to Playboy Indonesia being based on the island, provided that it contains articles on culture and religion, and is not merely a sex magazine.

"I will ask cultural and religious experts to carry out an evaluation, which I hope the people will consider. If our evaluation finds that Playboy is like the American version, we will not tolerate it. We will ask the government to ban Playboy in Bali,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.

Artha admitted to reading the first edition of Playboy Indonesia, which he said was not too vulgar and contained several articles on culture.

"Playboy’s brand name is not good because it carries the impression of a pornographic magazine, so it receives a harsh reaction. But I’m puzzled because there are also magazines with brand names that are not pornographic, but their content is pornographic, yet they are left alone, free from criticism.”

Legislators Upset
In Jakarta, legislators expressed regret over the persistence of Playboy Indonesia’s management in publishing a second edition.

"We regret that the management of Playboy has not learnt from past experience. Why could they not restrain themselves?” National Awakening Party (PKB) executive Ida Fauziah was quoted as saying by detikcom.

She said the circulation of “the magazine for adult men” must be closely supervised and improved to prevent it from falling into the hands of minors. "This is to avoid negative consequences if it is read by minors. The government must also be firmer in responding to this before there are anarchic public protests.”

Similar views were aired by National Mandate Party (PAN) executive Djoko Susilo. He said Playboy Indonesia’s management should have learnt from experience that the public finds the magazine unacceptable.

"I oppose pornography and porno-action. We also oppose Playboy because it is a symbol of the cultural colonization of the US,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that Playboy Indonesia’s contents were “not too much to worry about”. He even said many readers were disappointed with the first edition so the magazine’s sales were likely to decline.

The legislators who whine about Playboy have never bothered making an official visit to Glodok, West Jakarta, to observe the city’s main pirate DVD market, where hardcore pornographic films are widely available, including to minors, for a mere Rp5,000 per title. The piracy and sale of pornographic films is tolerated due to police corruption. A bigger problem in Indonesia is trafficking in children, which is also often tolerated by crooked officials.

Immediate Action
Pro-Islamic law group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) urged the government to immediately take firm action to ban Playboy and other “hot” publications.

HTI executive Farid Wadjdi expressed concern that horizontal conflict may erupt if the government fails to act. "We ask the government to immediately take a stance by tightening the permits for the publication of magazines or tabloids with nuances of pornography and porno-action,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a belated demonstration outside the US Embassy in Jakarta to protest “American intervention” in Indonesia and Iraq. HTI, joined by the Betwai Brotherhood Forum (FBR), had aimed to protest US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Indonesia visit, but arrived a day late, as Rumsfeld had left early on Wednesday after talks with the president and senior defense officials the previous day.

Wadjdi warned the increasing availability of pornographic magazines at markets and news stands would “damage the younger generation”.

He said Playboy could create a horizontal public conflict because some elements of the community feel responsible for keeping the magazine off the streets. "This has become a political problem and the government must have a firm attitude."

Wadjdi called on public and religious figures to monitor the circulation of Playboy. He emphasized that HTI would not participate in any actions to “sweep” the magazine off the streets but warned that other groups would be certain to do so.

Publisher Warns Vendors
Arnada held a press conference at a Denpasar hotel on Wednesday evening to formally announce the magazine’s comeback.

He warned magazine agents that Playboy must not be distributed to vendors operating in public spaces such as intersections or traffic lights. “If it is being sold in these places, we will not provide them with legal protection if they are dealt with by a third party,” he said.

Arnada ruled out any possibility of the magazine’s editorial team moving back to Jakarta. "We have moved permanently. Fourteen employees have moved to Bali,” he said.

Asked whether he might be shifting the magazine’s problems to Bali, he replied: "We do not intend to be moving the problem. I believe our friends and the Balinese will not think we are causing a problem in Bali.”

He reiterated the magazine’s commitment not to publish nude photos or cartoons depicting nudity. "We abide by all the regulations in Indonesia, including the rules of journalism."

No Police Response
Bali Police spokesman Antonius Reniban said his office had not yet been formally notified of Playboy Indonesia’s relocation. "There has been no report yet and we have not been informed of the plan to make the office here. We have never met with Playboy’s side,” he said.

He played down the possibility of the magazine facing any public violence or legal problems. "This is a dynamic of the community. It is clear the police will pacify the community and uphold the law,” he said.

Jakarta Police chief Inspector General Firman Gani has banned Playboy from being sold in the capital city for security reasons, but his order is meaningless because it is not backed by any legislation.

"Police still cannot take any action. There is not yet a regulation to enforce the ban,” Jakarta Police spokesman I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana was quoted as saying by detikcom.

Ana claimed he had not seen either of the two editions of Playboy Indonesia. “But we will continue our monitoring,” he said.

By: Roy Tupai | Category: Society & Culture
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