April 2, 2008 / 11:05 AM / 12 years ago

Indonesia seeks to block YouTube over anti-Koran film

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia has asked Internet providers to block access to the YouTube Web site for carrying a film made by a right-wing Dutch lawmaker which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, an official said on Wednesday.

A screenshot of YouTube.com, taken on march 27, 2008. REUTERS/www.youtube.com

Indonesia has banned broadcasts of the film by Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch anti-immigration Freedom Party, and radical Muslims called for the lawmaker’s death during protests outside the Dutch embassy in Jakarta this week.

On Wednesday, a Dutch flag flying outside a consulate in the Sumatran city of Medan was set ablaze.

Indonesia’s information minister, Muhammad Nuh, has written to the video-sharing Web site YouTube asking it to remove the film, said Cahyana Ahmadjayadi, the ministry’s director general for information technology.

“Our efforts include asking Internet service providers to block access to YouTube. They have started doing it now,” Ahmadjayadi told Reuters.

Users subscribing to an Internet service provided by the country’s largest telecoms company, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia, said they could still access YouTube.

Dozens of students burned tires and pushed against the gate of the Dutch consulate in Medan, prompting police to hold protesters back from around the consulate, Metro TV showed.

The protesters also pulled down a wooden signboard at the consulate. An embassy official said a Dutch flag was taken down and burnt.

“It’s just an honorary consulate, so there’s no sort of security there,” said the official, who declined to be named.

The state Antara news agency reported that police had fired two warning shots and detained 20 people suspected of damaging property.

In mainly Muslim Malaysia, a supermarket chain, Mydin Mohamed Holdings, labeled hundreds of Dutch-origin items on its shelves with red stickers to help buyers identify and avoid them, urging customers to vote with their wallets in protest.

“We feel that as Muslims we must do something,” Managing Director Ameer Ali Mydin told Reuters, adding that products ranging from electrical appliances to baby food now carry the telltale sticker in his network of 40 stores across Malaysia.

Mydin, which buys up to 60 million ringgit ($19 million) worth of products each year from companies with ties to the Netherlands, has also put up posters near store checkout points to urge customers to boycott the items.

Milk producer Dutch Lady, which says it has been operating in Malaysia for more than 50 years, took out full-page advertisements in newspapers on Wednesday to denounce the film, and condemned the comments and statements in it.

“We respect all cultures, beliefs and values and strongly condemn this expression against Islam,” it added.

Wilders launched his short video “Fitna” — an Arabic term sometimes translated as “strife” — on the Internet last week, drawing international condemnation.

The film intersperses images of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States with other Islamist bombings and quotations from the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

In February, Pakistan ordered its Internet service providers to block YouTube over material considered offensive to Islam.

The move came after the popular site carried controversial sketches of the Prophet Mohammad which were republished by Danish newspapers in January.

The cartoon, first published in Danish newspapers, ignited violent protests around the world and a boycott of Danish products in 2006. Many Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.

A similar step was taken by Thailand last year after YouTube aired a 44-second film showing graffiti over the face of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Wilders’ film urges Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” verses from the Koran and starts and ends with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban, accompanied by a ticking sound.

Protests against the Dutch film have been small scale in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and a former Dutch colony.

($1 = 3.192 Malaysian Ringgit)

Reporting by Ahmad Pathoni and Olivia Rondonuwu, and Clarence Fernandez in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Sugita Katyal and Valerie Lee

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