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Asiaone Nicki Minaj

The actions of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission to censor 42 songs of Western artists including Bruno Mars and Nicki Minaj stating that the lyrics of their songs are deemed ‘immoral’ has displeased critics stating that the move is futile because of the modern internet culture we have today.

The commission mentioned was also known as KPI, they said that the songs are completely banned from the radios but also said that the censored versions of the songs are allowed to be aired after 10pm, according to straits times.

Banned for multiple reasons

Even though Indonesia has been banning and censoring songs from the past, the critics still lambasted the action of the commission, they also added that in this age where access to streaming services like Spotify and VPNs or Virtual Private Networks made the move pointless.

In the announcement of the move, Adiyana Slamet, president of the West Java branch of KPI, stated that the songs have been banned under the Law 32 of the Indonesian Broadcasting Code from a wide array of reasons including containing words of violence, profanity and hypersexuality. The list of 42 songs banned includes Rita Ora’s How We Do, Maroon 5’s Beautiful Mistakes, Justin Bieber’s Lonely and Ariana Grande’s Positions. 

Adiyana stated that the decision to ban the tracks is to ensure that the Indonsian broadcasting ‘upholds integrity’, promotes ‘morality’ and preserve the national image as ‘devoted and sanctimonious’.

Deemed offensive to social norms

Even though the decision has shocked many Indonesians and been laughed at by some local artists, it isn’t the first time the KPI censored either local or international artists. 

Irna Minauli, a clinical psychologist in Medan stated, “Actually, there have long been bans on songs that were considered contrary to social norms.” 

“When I was a child growing up in the 1960s, the song Je t’aime … moi nonplus by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin was banned because it contained sighs that were thought to arouse the passions of those who heard it.”

“Banning songs has existed since the time of Indonesia’s first President Sukarno in the 1960s. He even forbade local singers from singing or imitating Western singers. Then during the Suharto era from 1967 to 1998, songs associated with Indonesia’s Communist Party were banned.”

KPI which was founded in 2002 has been censoring music that is perceived as offensive to social norms. However, Minauli said that offensive to cultural and religious norms could mean anything from showing videos of people smoking heavily, women kissing, or showing transgender people in television. 

Showing these things after 10 pm could mean nothing in this internet era. She also said that this move can only affect people from the rural areas but not the ones in urban areas where teenagers don’t watch television anymore and use their mobile phones instead to connect to the internet. Even though pornography and online gambling sites like sg pools are still banned in Indonesia in general, people still have access to these sites via VPN.

Reactions from local artists

Guitarist Hikmawan ‘Indra’ Saefullah of the indie band Alone, At Last, said that the local artists don’t take KPI seriously anymore because they are wasting time on token actions like banning pop songs instead of eradicating the real problem of poor quality of broadcasting in general. 

“Apart from demonstrating a moral panic, such censorship will never be effective. Especially when the state wants to shape the image of Indonesia as a nation with upstanding morals but goes about it in such a strange way,” Saifullah said.

The artist also said that it is futile to censor these pop songs on the radio because most people now have access to streaming services like Spotify. 

Music is not the problem

Indonesian artist Mikail Israfil of the punk rock band said that “As a musician, I feel like these acts of oppression against freedom of expression are usually carried out by spiteful losers who have no principles in life.” 

“I have never been accused of being immoral as a result of my music, if anything people appreciate a fresh influence. Moral crises in society are created by a culture of hypocrisy and ignorance. Not because of the music,” he added.