Indonesian artists protest against plan to ban ‘negative foreign influence’ in music

Hundreds of Indonesian musicians are protesting against a controversial draft law which seeks to restrict musical content, a move they say could "destroy" freedom of expression.

The bill’s Article 5 would prohibit "negative foreign influence" on music, as well as content deemed to be pornographic or blasphemous. Those who fall foul of the law could incur a fine or even a prison sentence. 

Some 200 musicians have criticised the bill, saying that such regulations will curtail freedom of expression upheld in the country’s 1945 Constitution. 

Kartika Jahja, an Indonesian artist who is part of a coalition fighting the bill, told the The Guardian it was "very dangerous ground … to silence musicians because music is one of the greatest and biggest agitators for various social and political movements in this country”.

The artists fear the draft law could signal a return to the crackdowns of Indonesia’s Old and New Order eras under the autocratic Sukarno and Suharto regimes, when musicians were jailed for playing music with Western influence. 

The coalition has received significant public support, with a petition against the bill reaching  more than 65,000 signatures in the 24 hours since its Sunday launch. 

The musicians also say  the bill is ambiguous and contains rules with "stretched interpretations" in terms of what might be considered blasphemous or provocative by authorities.

There have been previous instances where the government cracked down on foreign pop stars on the grounds of ‘immorality’.  In December, broadcasting monitors banned a TV ad which showed members of a K-pop girl band, Blackpink, wearing miniskirts and short dresses.

In 2012, Lady Gaga cancelled a concert in Jakarta amid vehement protest from Islamist hardliners, who vowed to prevent her disembarking her plane.

The bill, which has been marked as a priority by Indonesia’s House of Representatives, has also drawn a backlash on social media, with the hashtag #TolakRUUPermusikan, translating as "reject the draft music law” trending in the country.

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