While transgender figures such as talk show host Dorce Gamalama were once welcome and even celebrated on Indonesian television, due to increasingly aggressive anti-LGBT rhetoric and politicized moral panic over gay rights that have gripped the country in the past few years, just the mere discussion of LGBT issues on TV (that does not explicitly discuss them in a negative way) is enough to earn sanctions from the country’s broadcasting censorship body.
Yesterday, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) announced that it was sanctioning a TV talk show called Brownis Tonight for episodes aired last week that contain content that “addresses the transgender issue.”
In a statement released on the KPI website, KPI Central Commissioner Hardly Stefano said that the sanction was based on public complaints and his organization’s analysis of episodes of Brownis Tonight that aired on March 28 and March 29, both around 7pm.
In early 2016, KPI issued circulars warning broadcasters they could be sanctioned for showing content that “normalized” LGBT behavior or showed it in a positive light. This included the inclusion of male characters who acted in an effeminate way.
The KPI statement did not mention specifically what part of Brownis Tonight’s discussion led to the sanction but said that the program had violated “the provisions on respect for privacy rights, child protection, and protection to persons with a particular gender identity” (yes, that last part is either a mistake or they just don’t understand what their own provisions mean).
“The rules in [the provisions standards] are clear, both about respect for moral values and norms and decency, or on the protection of children and adolescents that prohibit the presence of content that encourages children and adolescents from learning about inappropriate behavior and/or justifying such behavior. Based on these violations, the Central KPI provides administrative sanctions in the form of a written warning,” KPI chief Stefano said, adding a reminder to all television and radio broadcasters to “not give LGBT promotion space” through any of their programming.
The KPI has often been criticized for their overzealous censorship policies, such as those that demand TV stations blur out the tiniest hint of female cleavage, be it on a cartoon character, robot or beauty pageant contestants in traditional Indonesian dress, while at the same time saying that a religious TV show featuring a sermon talking about “sex parties” in heaven was acceptable.
But the KPI’s broadcasting standards regarding LGBT content are especially dangerous in that they seem to preclude even the possibility of fair and neutral discussion about an issue that is actively leading to violence and discrimination against one of the country’s most vulnerable minority groups.