Indonesia lifts its YouTube ban

Under government orders on Tuesday, Indonesian ISPs blocked sites that shared Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders' 16-minute film Fitna. The ban on these sites has reportedly now been lifted.

The Jakarta Post reported that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had banned Dutch politician Geert Wilders' film Fitna for disturbing social harmony in Indonesia. Subsequently, 146 ISPs and 30 network access providers were asked to block Web sites that hosted the controversial film. The list of blocked sites included YouTube, MySpace, and Rapidshare.

Wilders is an outspoken anti-Islamist, whose "film" takes clips of terrorist attacks and religious extremists and ties them in with verses from the Koran, in an attempt to portray the religion as a fascistic empire that threatens the West, the Netherlands in particular.

Before the content was even released, controversy surrounding it caused Network Solutions to temporarily suspend the film's site for examination, and an attempt by Pakistan to prevent it from being seen.

YouTube has been blocked on numerous occasions in many countries, including: China, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Brazil, and Thailand. YouTube has agreed to work within the paramaters of some countries, allowing some of these bans to be lifted.

Such is also the case with Indonesia. There, after complaints from citizens, and critical editorial content pervading Indonesian media, ISPs said today that they will instead try to limit the block to individual pages instead of entire services. Google and YouTube proposed the ministry send a list of videos it believes to be illegal which the company will review and then remove.

Communications Minister Muhammad Nuh in a statement today apologized for the unforseen repercussions the ban had, saying "I openly ask the public's forgiveness for the inconvenience caused over the past few days by the blocking of sites."

Wimar Witoelar, Indonesian chat show host and former presidential spokesperson, told the Jakarta Post that blocking YouTube was a clumsy move from the government and "Ninety-nine percent of YouTube users are visiting the site for productive purposes, not to watch Fitna."

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