Indonesia sex tape sparks call to control Internet

JAKARTA (Reuters) - The release of video clips appearing to show top starlets having sex has sparked renewed calls for tighter Internet controls in majority-Muslim Indonesia and more use of a controversial anti-pornography law.

Indonesia's pop singer Nazril "Ariel" Irham (R) and his television star girlfriend Luna Maya speak during an exclusive interview with TVONE station in Jakarta June 14, 2010 in this frame grab taken on June 15, 2010, over the controversial release of video clips appearing to show the top starlets having sex. REUTERS/TVONE

The anti-porn law, passed in 2008, was seen by many as a sign of the growing influence of conservative Islam in policy-making in traditionally moderate Indonesia, a worry for some investors hoping for pro-market reforms.

Police are now considering invoking it in an investigation into the release on the grainy clips that appear to show pop singer Nazril “Ariel” Irham having sex, in one clip with television star girlfriend Luna Maya, while in another with actress Cut Tari.

The stars have denied it is them. Local media reported Irham as saying his laptop was stolen last year and police have called the stars for questioning.

Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring has expressed disgust at the clips, which have dominated Indonesian news since being leaked earlier this month.

“Why would anyone tape such a private thing?” Sembiring was quoted as saying by local newspaper the Jakarta Post, which also reported him saying new rules were needed to ban “negative” Internet content.

Sembiring’s Islam-based party PKS, seen as one of the most conservative parties in parliament, is a key member of President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono’s ruling coalition and pushed earlier this year for more Internet censorship controls. The plan was dropped after public outcry.

The party’s president, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, told Reuters the clips showed inappropriate material was too easily accessible.

“To protect a community, there must be control, we cannot have total freedom,” said the Saudi Arabia-educated politician. “To create comfort and overcome negative effects on communities who are not ready and not supposed to consume certain material, then controls are a very good idea.”

When asked if he would support limiting access to sites like YouTube or Facebook, Ishaaq said he would “if it was in the national interest”. He expected the anti-porn law, used to charge nightclub dancers this year, to be used more often in future.

If letters to the editor are any judge, reactions from ordinary Indonesians to the country’s first celebrity sex tape scandal have varied from voyeuristic interest to irritation.

“I think corruption is worse for society than a few sex videos,” one scribe, “Peter”, wrote to the Jakarta Post.

Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Nick Macfie