“Courage is a luxurious thing and can’t be taken for granted, especially when we live in a country like Indonesia. And to fight against censorship, we should have such bravery and courage.”

When I heard several programs planned for Ubud Writers and Readers Festival have been cancelled because of police pressure, without thinking longer I and a number of friends published a statement to condemn the police and government for their action. As far as I know, this is the first open statement to directly protest such a state censorship. We work very fast in just one night to gather support from writers, journalists, artists from indonesia and other countries, putting their names on the statement. In the following day, we have more than 200 prominent figures joined us to condemn the censorship. This statement spread quickly through email, mainstream media and social media. You can still find this letter in many links and websites.

At that time we didn’t think anything else but one: any forms of censorship and suppression to freedom of expression -regardless of the reason, perpetrators, the victims and how it happens – must be rejected and fought.

Subsequently, many other reactions towards the cancellation appeared. The tide of the protests then turn against Ubud Festival. Until today, we still hear such blame. Just before the session, I still read an article arguing that blamed Ubud Festival. Many blamed Ubud Festival for doing self-censorship while not stand up against this suppresion and intimidation. They question why Ubud just accept such cancellation and too afraid to resist.

To all these arguments againts Ubud Festival, I would like to answer: of course they are afraid and I’m sure the rest of us in Indonesia still have the same fear on state intimidation and suppression. Most of us had been living under the cruel totalitarian regime for 32 years. The New Order Regime has just gone 17 years ago, meaning people over 25 in Indonesia  must have felt the way of life under the regime.

During these 32 years, we were taught to be in fear all the time. We were shaped to be a creature that would always be afraid and defeated, bowing down to every order. This system spread fear through education and intimidation in every day life.

Even the young people and teenagers these days have parents who were educated and brainwashed by the regime. These parents will inherit the mentality shaped by the New Order Regime. And when they go to school, they would be educated by teachers and system that was formed by the regime.

When you blame Ubud Festival for not resisting and claimed they are not a victim, I would say they are a victim just as all of us in Indonesia. We are a victim of regime that will not allow us to freely express ourself, think freely and speak up and criticize. The only thing this regime wants is to preserve their hold on power and the last thing they want is for people to express themselves freely,  as they see it a a threat

I agree that self censorship is the worst kind of censorship. But we have to know the situation. In many situations, there is no choice to survive.

Courage is a luxurious thing and can’t be taken for granted, especially when we live in a country like Indonesia. And to fight against censorship, we should have such bravery and courage.

Note: I highlighted about fear and courage in my session ” Uncensored” at Ubud Writers Festival with Endy Bayuni, Andreas Harsono, and moderator Michael Vatikiotis. During the session I asked all attendance to raise posters and banners to protest all kind of censorship. That’s our small act to spread bravery and courage.

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