On Tuesday, Indonesia celebrated National Book Day. But the event was disturbed by reports of book raids and confiscations by the country’s officials in a bid to stop left-wing ideologies from further spreading.
Not many people in Indonesia are aware of its National Book Day, which was founded in 2002 and takes place on May 17 every year – a date that coincides with the establishment of the country’s national library in 1980.
This year’s national book day was troubled by reports that Indonesian officials and national armed forces, better known as Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), have been confiscating books promoting ideologies like Marxism, Leninism and communism in an attempt to prevent the revival of communism in Indonesia.
Gramedia, one of the nation’s largest book stores has suspended the distribution of such left-wing books.
“The books are still available, but they are not allowed to be displayed. That applies in all Gramedia [outlets],” one of the book store chain’s staff members admitted, as reported by CNN Indonesia.
The book’s confiscation has polarized the country into those who support the confiscation and those who fear for the loss of freedom of thought and expression.
Among those who agree with the ban was head of the national library Dedi Junaedi:
“I agree. These left-weeks books prove to be threatening. In the New Order, these books were forbidden. To be able to read it, there must be an official permit,” he said.
On the contrary, a group of journalists, editors, media communities and publishers known as Masyarkat Literasi Yogyakarta (MLY) expressed their concern for this confiscation. One of the members of the group, writer Anton Kurnia believes TNI’s move is against the law:
“What the police and the officials are doing is against the law because they have no authority to confiscate [the books],” he claimed.
In Jogjakarta, MLY reported that two publishers and one book store were raided in a “terror” attack on May 10 and 11. The group believe this confiscation of literature should not happen in a democracy and is against the Constitution.