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Facebook Banned by East Java Islamic Organization

Surabaya, Indonesia (May 24) - On the heels of reports of a controversial edict on social networking tools such as Facebook and mobile phones, an official said the government will not issue any laws to limit individual freedom to access information through the two media.

An expert staff member at the Information and Communications Ministry, Sukemi, cited Law No.11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transaction, which bans the distribution of information that tends to violate morality in the community, including invitations to gamble, insinuation, extortion and threats.

“Under the law, any internet providers who distribute pornography can be arrested by the police and be legally processed,” Sukemi told The Jakarta Post.

“We acknowledge the dissemination of the law has been sporadic.”

It was reported earlier that up to 1,700 clerics from Java and Bali from the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, had issued the edict on

Friday banning the use of Facebook, Friendster and other online social networks as well as mobile phone communications “if they were used for extramarital affairs” and other “negative” things such as pornography.

The edict is not legally binding and does not represent the NU as a whole.

Under Law No. 11/2008, aside from violating morality, any individual who is found to distribute rumors or baseless information containing SARA (tribal affiliations, religion, race and societal groups) issues will face possible imprisonment of up to six years and fines between Rp 1 billion (US$900,000) and Rp 2 billion.

“The law does not regulate private affairs. We also do not want to interfere with the private rights
of individuals, who can have access to pornography as long as their activities do not cause enmity that would lead to SARA conflicts,” Sukemi said.

The edict was issued in response to the clerics’ restlessness against reports of widespread
distribution of pornographic material, gossip, sexual affairs and any other negative purposes via the
two media.

Sukemi further said after the clerics’ issuance of the edict, the government will launch a healthy internet program designed for all layers of the community through a number of meetings at schools, NGOs, government and private institutions and others.

“Under the healthy internet program, we will invite the community to use the internet only
for positive purposes and access anti-pornography sites provided free of charge by the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nadjib Hamid, secretary of the East Java board of management of Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, said utilizing information technology is not banned by religious regulations as long as it is not used for any negative purposes.

“We have informed our followers in Indonesia. “Facebook constitutes a blessing from the advancement of science and technology. Science and technology can be a necessity if they bring about benefits to human beings.”

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