August 11, 2006A controversial religious leader and a feminist writer were named winners of an award for freedom of expression Thursday. They are former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid and Gadis Arivia who founded Jurnal Perempuan, a woman’s journal.
A member of the jury, Endy M. Bayuni, said the decision to present them the Suardi Tasrif award, named after a noted journalist, was because “they succeeded in opening the public’s perspective in the controversial debate of the pornography bill, that more was at stake beyond the bill itself.”
Gadis and Gus Dur were among many who raised concerns of the threat to the country’s pluralism, freedom of expression and womens’ rights should the bill take effect.
The presentation will take place Friday in conjunction with the 12th anniversary of the press organization issuing the annual award, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).
Although many others had raised similar concerns over the bill, Endy added they had been the most consistent among nominees regarding plurality, equal rights and freedom of expression.
The jury members shared “admiration for their spirit, vision and commitment in their struggle for freedom of expression, equal rights, their spirit for diversity and democracy in Indonesia,” said Endy, also chief editor of The Jakarta Post.
Secretary general of AJI, Abdul Manan, said the pornography bill was not the actual focus of this year’s award, “although we realize the risk of attracting controversy” over the decision.”
Gadis founded the Aliansi Mawar Putih (White Rose Alliance) which urged people to express opposition against the bill and to jointly fund the placements of ads announcing their stand in the media.
Gus Dur, former chairman of the largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, was once quoted as saying that the bill violated the Constitution on the protection of freedom of expression. If it was passed, he said, “I will start and lead efforts to amend the law because it violates the Constitution.”
No one was named this year for AJI’s annual Udin Award presented to journalists who were victims of violence. Endy said the jury did not have enough evidence regarding a number of nominees that they were killed or injured physically or psychologically in relation to their work.