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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia plans to restrict access to pornographic and violent sites on the Internet after the country's parliament passed a new information bill, officials said on Tuesday.
The Southeast Asian country has had a vigorous debate over pornography in recent years, exposing deep divisions in the Muslim-majority nation.
"I think we all agree there's no way we can save this nation by spreading pornography, violence and ethnic hostility," Information Minister Mohammad Nuh told reporters.
Nuh said that members of the public had asked the government to block sites with violent and pornographic content, concerned about their negative impact as more Indonesians gain access to the Internet.
The new legislation, the Electronic Information and Transactions Law, will allow courts to accept electronic material as evidence in cases involving Internet abuse, officials said.
Under the law, anyone found guilty of transmitting pornographic material, false news or racial and religious hate messages on the Internet could face up to six years in prison or a fine of 1 billion rupiah ($109,000).
Edmon Makarim, an adviser for the information ministry, said the government hoped to start implementing restrictions on sites containing banned material next month using special software.
Software for blocking sites would be made available for downloading on the ministry's Web site (www.depkominfo.go.id), he said, adding that it was also looking at the possibility of direct blocking.
Indonesia's parliament has yet to pass a controversial pornography bill, which aims to shield the young from pornographic material and lewd acts.
Earlier draft versions contained provisions that could jail people for kissing in public and criminalize many forms of art or traditional culture that hinge on sensuality, sparking criticism it could curb freedoms and hurt Indonesia's tolerant tradition.
The bill has since been watered down.
A court cleared the editor of Playboy Indonesia last year for distributing indecent pictures to the public and making money from them.
The editor had argued the magazine was good for developing a pluralistic society, while the prosecution and Islamic hardliners said he had "harmed the nation's morals".
About 85 percent of Indonesia's more than 220 million population follow Islam.
Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Editing by Ed Davies