Mon, Oct 26, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Festival forced to scrap purge coverage

GOVERNMENT PRESSURE:Organizers of a literary festival in Indonesia were forced into canceling literary events related to the anti-communist purge of the 1960s

AFP, DENPASAR, Indonesia

A major literary festival in Bali, Indonesia, was forced to cancel events related to a 1960s anti-communist purge, the organizers said yesterday, after authorities threatened to revoke its operating permit.

Five programs, including several discussion panels, a book launch and film screening were scrapped from the annual Ubud Readers and Writers Festival, which is scheduled to open on Wednesday, said Hanna Nabila, one of the festival’s spokespeople.

“The authorities had refused to grant us permits to hold those programs without giving reasons. We are very disappointed but also worried that we might be forced to call off the entire festival if we proceed,” she added.

A statement on the festival Web site said the cancellations came “after increased scrutiny from local authorities” and that the organizers had been involved in “extensive negotiations.”

“The festival ... was advised that should certain sessions proceed, it would run the risk of the entire festival being canceled,” the statement said.

This month marks 50 years of one of the most violent mass killings of the 20th century.

At least 500,000 people died in the killings across the archipelago that started after then-general Suharto put down a coup on Oct. 1, 1965, which the authorities blamed on communists.

Security forces supported local groups in conducting the massacre over several months, with many suspected of even weak links to the Indonesian Communist Party killed and hundreds of thousand imprisoned, some for years.

Suharto became president in March 1967 after the failed coup and ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years. The necessity of the killings to rid the country of the communist threat became part of the official narrative and the perpetrators were left unpunished.

Amnesty International in a report it published last month urged Indonesia to do more to provide justice for victims and their families.

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