Dipo Reports Metro TV to Press Council

The Jakarta Globe

Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam reported Metro TV to the press council on Monday for fueling a negative public opinion of him.

The action comes two days after executives from Metro TV and broadsheet Media Indonesia filed a lawsuit and police complaint against Dipo over his recent call for an advertising boycott of certain news organizations.
“We have no problem with the Media Group’s legal action,” Dipo’s lawyer, Amir Syamsuddin, told reporters at the Press Council’s office. “But we expect that while legal processes are under way, Metro TV will stop using their media to create a [false] public opinion of Dipo.”
The lawyer explained that for the past five days, Metro TV had continually run in its news ticker a sentence saying Dipo Alam calls for boycott of the Indonesian press.
“It is not fair that Metro TV keeps running the same text over these last five days without covering both sides. They have abused their authority for building a public opinion about Dipo Alam. Therefore we are only reporting Metro TV,” he said.
“We are not reporting TV One or Media Indonesia because they are not taking the same action as Metro TV in building a public opinion.”
Amir said he hoped the press council would remain impartial during the handling the case.
“We hope everything will be solved properly as Metro TV has attack an Indonesian citizen, Dipo Alam, by using their institution to control public opinion,” he said. “We won’t explain the details [of the report] until the press council takes a look at it.”

Misunderstanding Over Film Tax: Indonesian Govt

The Jakarta Globe

Foreign-film fans in Indonesia may still have reason to hope after a Finance Ministry official on Monday said the controversy over the tax on imported films was all a misunderstanding.

Thomas Sugijata, director of excise at the ministry, said there was in fact no new tax policy on imported films.

Foreign distributors on Thursday said they were halting the supply of imported films, believing the government was imposing a hefty additional tax.

The boycott meant that Indonesian fans would be denied seeing imported films, including the top overseas blockbusters.

“What there actually is,” Sugijata said, “is a reassessment of the customs value of imported films.” He added that the National Film Development Agency (BP2N) in February last year sent a letter recommending a reassessment of the customs value, which it said was too low.

The result, he said, was that foreign distributors would now be paying higher fees up front, but possibly lower fees on the back end.

“The royalty element was incorporated in the import value,” he said, which resulted in a higher customs value for the films. Previously, royalty payments were only calculated after a film had been distributed.

“This is really purely a matter of correct assessment, in line with the regulations.”

Heri Kristiono, a customs and excise technical director at the Finance Ministry, told reporters separately that the law on customs stipulates that royalties should be included in the import tax calculation.

“We plan to reassess the value this year,” Heri said. The royalty value, he said, depended on the agreement between the foreign distributor and the importer.

Heri said that the tax office had ratified the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement, which states that in determining customs values, royalties — such as payments in respect to patents, trademarks and copyrights — should be included.

The foreign film distributors may have seen the higher taxes on imported films as the results of a new tax, he said, while the reason for the higher figures was the incorporation of royalty fees into the customs values.

Based on the current tax law, importers pay 23.75 percent of the film’s customs value, including import tax, value added tax and income tax.

Previously, royalties were not calculated because distributors argued that the amount would only be known after the film had been released, Heri said.

“Importers should know this. There are no problems with other royalties such as for books and music,” he said.

Darussalam, a tax expert from the University of Indonesia, said that such disputes in interpretation were always problematic in determining customs values across the world.

“There is nothing wrong with the government attempt to determine customs values based on royalties,” Darrusalam said.

Heri said the customs value of imported films had previously been based on the physical length of the film roll, with each meter valued at 43 cents.

“Therefore, there is no new levy or increase in import duty fees on imported film.”

Heri added that on Friday, the Directorate General of Customs, the Motion Picture Association and foreign film producers such as Walt Disney, Time Warner and Sony Pictures had discussed the newly appraised customs value of imported film. “Actually they have responded to us positively.

“However, they were to write to us about their concerns and objections, which we have not received until now.”

Tax schemes for local films also are being assessed.

Govt Pledges Review of Controversial New Indonesian Film Tax

The Jakarta Globe

Under fire for a potential new tax on foreign films that has led distributors to halt their importation, the government on Sunday promised to review the move.

The minister of culture and tourism, Jero Wacik, said the government wanted to support the development of the domestic film industry with the proposed new tax.

“We will review the Directorate General of Taxation’s circular issued in January on the new levy on imported films,” he said. “This is because we are not going to pursue regulations that have a bad effect on the public and threatened to kill the cinema industry here with their implementation.”

The minister said the government, if necessary, would also invite distributors to discuss how much they were prepared to pay. Imported films already pay a 23.75 percent excise duty and another 10 percent income tax. Local governments also levy up to a 15 percent tax on ticket sales.

Jero said a new tax arrangement for domestic and imported films would be finalized within two weeks. “We just want to clarify everything as soon as possible and don’t want to create any misunderstandings,” he said. “We just want to do what’s best for our national film industry.”

The minister said he would announce the final proposal for the tax scheme by National Film Day, which is on March 29. He said the government was not looking to pass any regulations that would kill off the film industry, but only wanted to improve quality.

Jero said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in December had directed him to help advance the domestic film industry and, in the process, help create new jobs. “The president requested that we improve and increase the number of Indonesian films,” the minister said.

There has been a barrage of criticism, both here and abroad, over the proposed tax. The Motion Picture Association, which represents some of the biggest studios in Hollywood, on Thursday told journalists in Jakarta that it would stop movie exports to the country because of the possible new levy, which was rumored to cost as much as 43 cents per meter of film imported.

The controversy surrounding the new tax and the film boycott has been a hot topic around water coolers across the country and on online social networking sites such as Twitter. The official line that the tax was aimed at helping develop the deomestic film industry has even been dismissed by those in the film industry.

Jero said the president had asked him to review the proposed tax regime after reading a comment from film director Hanung Bramantyo in the media about improving the domestic film industry without imposing new taxes.

Hanung said the Indonesian film industry would not be helped by taxing foreign films because it already had to deal with high levies that made producing local films costly.

Joko Anwar, another prominent Indonesian director, told the Jakarta Globe on Saturday that a new tax was not the best solution to improving the quality of local movies. “This will not have a direct impact on the Indonesian film industry but will actually help increase piracy in Indonesia because foreign films will become harder to get,” he said.

Joko said the government was this year targeting the production of more than 100 domestic films. “But we are not only talking about the number, it’s also about quality — we must increase the number of good quality Indonesian films,” he said. “The solution is to have zero percent tax on film production equipment. Another way would be to reduce the number of imported films to a ratio of about 60-40 between local and imported films.”

A Preview of What’s to Come Under the Imported Film Levy

The Jakarta Globe
A Preview of What’s to Come Under the Imported Film Levy

Higher taxes usually mean higher revenue for the government and more funds available for developing the country.

However, in the case of the new import tax on foreign film distribution rights that was issued last month but has yet to take effect, few people are seeing any benefit.

With foreign film distributors boycotting Indonesia as a result of the new import policy, cinema and film industry players, as well as those whose livelihoods are affected by these industries, are warning of a catastrophic domino effect.

Cinema Industry in Peril

Prominent film figure Noorca Massardi, chairman of the Indonesian Cinemas Association and spokesman for 21 Cineplex, provided a preview of things to come if the government refuses to revoke the policy.

“Every year, cinemas screen 50 to 80 local titles and 100 to 150 foreign titles,” he said. “If no solution is found, Indonesian cinemas will close down one by one.”

First, the livelihood of roughly 10,000 employees of 21 Cineplex, Indonesia’s largest movie theater chain, will be at stake, Noorca said in a statement published by Kompas.

One employee of a South Jakarta cinema said he and his co-workers were all worried about their jobs.

Blitz Megaplex, a more upscale theater chain, is also worried.

Dian Sunardi, head of marketing for Blitz, said the development is particularly worrying for the chain because it plans to open nine new screens in the next three weeks.

“We expect the government to revoke this regulation as it will kill the cinema industry along with the jobs of the people working for it,” she said.

Hurting Malls and Restaurants

The impact of the boycott is expected to reverberate beyond the cinema industry.

Cinemas are considered anchor tenants for shopping malls and are relied on heavily to draw in crowds, said Muhammad Arfan Purnama, a spokesman for Cilandak Town Square.

He added that the mall is already feeling the effect, especially after Oscar-nominated movies “Black Swan” and “127 Hours,” which were supposed to start screening on Friday, were put on hold after the boycott was announced on Thursday.

Arfan said traffic in the popular South Jakarta complex was noticeably lower on Saturday night compared to its usual weekends.

“If the government insists on implementing the new regulation, it will not only impact the cinema industry but also the malls and their tenants, like coffee shops and other restaurants that usually attract movie-going customers,” he said.

Lower Tax Revenue

When the levy comes into effect, the government itself will suffer from lower tax revenues.

Iwan Setiawandi, head of the Jakarta tax office, said on Sunday that cinemas contribute around 40 percent to 50 percent of the Rp 300 billion ($34 million) in entertainment tax collected by the city administration each year.

“Jakarta’s entertainment tax also comes from places such as Ancol theme park, night clubs and restaurants,” he said. “But losing 40 to 50 percent of the entertainment tax is substantial. It’s money we can use to improve health and education facilities.”

Iwan added that 21 Cineplex is the largest contributor to Jakarta’s entertainment tax collections.

“It will likely be even more difficult for the municipal administrations whose entertainment tax relies mostly on cinemas,” he added.

Disappointed Fans

Of course, there is also the understated impact of the boycott — the disappointed fans.

Shafiq, a member of Indo Harry Potter, an online fan community, said they were at a loss over the prospect of not being able to see the final installment of the Hollywood blockbuster series on the big screen.

“Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2,” the last of the eight-part movie series, is scheduled for worldwide release in July. For the previous films, special screenings have been held for IHP members, who come dressed as characters from the series.

“Last year, we successfully held a screening of ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1’ with 500 participants, and we’re worried we will not be able to do it again,” Shafiq said.

He added that film lovers in general would lose an important source of entertainment, especially since in his opinion, “Indonesian films are often very poor in both quality and content.”

The One Exception

If any group would likely benefit from all this, it is the pirated DVD sellers the government claims it is trying to stamp out.

Nia Dinata, a prominent film director and producer, said it was expected that the boycott would lead to a huge boost in the piracy business in the country.

Because “the culture of going to the cinema will fade as film lovers get used to watching pirated DVDs,” she said, it was likely even fans of Indonesian films would opt to buy bootleg copies instead of going to theaters.

“If the government wants to help to increase the number of Indonesian films and improve the quality of the local film industry, this is not the solution,” she said.

Disband Ahmadiyah or Else, Hard-Liners Warn

The Jakarta Globe

More than 1,000 Islamic hard-liners gathered at an anti-Ahmadiyah rally in Jakarta on Friday, issuing fresh threats to topple the government if officials did not disband the minority Muslim sect.

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which organized the rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, claimed Ahmadis wanted all other Muslims dead, “so they must be eliminated first.”

The protesters also called President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a banci , or transvestite, saying he was a coward for not dissolving the sect, which has been deemed deviant by mainstream Muslims for its divergent views on Islamic prophets.

Awid Mashuri, deputy secretary general of the FPI, demanded that the government “stand for us instead of for Ahmadiyah.”

“[The president] should act faster on this,” he said. “If he keeps silent, we’ll assume that he supports the existence of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia, and that’s a humiliation to Islam, so if it happens, we demand [he] resign.”

His call prompted the crowd to shout: “We want an Islamic revolution!”

In Makassar, FPI chairman Habib Riziq in his Friday sermon said he would exhaust all means to dismantle Ahmadiyah.

“In the name of Allah, I swear that until the last drop of my blood, whatever the risks, Ahmadiyah must not exist in Indonesia,” he said.

In Jakarta, protesters marched to the office of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which they accused of “violating Islam” by calling for the protection of Ahmadis.

Misbakhul Hanan, an FPI member, said a much bigger rally would be held on March 1.

“All Muslims will join us, we’ll stay all night in front of the State Palace until [Yudhoyono] issues the order to disband Ahmadiyah,” he said. “That’s his deadline. If he misses it, the revolution that took place in Egypt will happen in Indonesia too.”

However, the government brushed off the threats, with Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi saying he had built a rapport with the FPI.

“I feel this brotherly bond with Habib and [FPI spokesman] Munarman,” he said. “I’ve been good acquaintances with Munarman since I was at the LBH [Legal Aid Foundation] with him.”

But Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party did not take the threats lightly, with lawmaker Ramadhan Pohan accusing the FPI of abusing freedom of speech.

He called on the police to respond to the threats seriously and said the FPI was damaging the authority of the state.

Additional reporting by Camelia Pasandaran & Markus Sihaloho

It’s Curtains for Foreign Films, Warns Cinema 21

The Jakarta Globe

Importation of foreign films into Indonesia has been halted and will only resume if the government revokes a new levy on imported films, the spokesman of 21 Cineplex has warned.

Noorca Masardi told the Jakarta Globe that 21, Indonesia’s largest movie theater chain with 500 screens, would only continue to screen foreign films that were already showing.

“[After this], we will not be able to screen any more imported films until the customs department changes its policy on film distribution in Indonesia,” he said, adding that this applies not only to movies from the United States but also Europe and Asia.

The Motion Picture Association on Thursday told journalists at a preview for “Black Swan” that the Oscar-nominated movie was likely the last foreign offering it would bring into this country because of the new levy on imported film distribution.

Noorca was quoted in other news portals as explaining that imported films already had to pay a 23.75 percent excise duty, a 10 percent tax to the central government and another 10-15 percent of the profit from ticket sales to regional governments. The new tax on distribution, he said, was also as much as 23.75 percent.

“There is no similar rule in any other country,” he later told the Globe.

Government officials involved in the matter have repeatedly declined to provide details of the new levy, saying only that talks were ongoing.

Noorca warned of the effect the policy would have has on the nation’s theaters and viewers.

“Every year, cinemas screen 50 to 80 local titles and 100 to 150 foreign titles. If the government does not revoke this new policy, it will kill the cinema industry in Indonesia,” he said. “If no solution is found, Indonesian cinemas will close down one by one.”

Indonesia’s film industry has suffered a downturn in recent years. In 2009, six local films sold more than a million tickets each at the box office. In 2010, only one movie broke the million mark.

Last year, 81 Indonesian films had cinema releases, slightly down from 83 films in 2009, although a significant decline from 91 big-screen releases in 2008.

Members of the MPA include some of the biggest studios in the United States, including Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Hundreds of Migrant Workers Repatriated From Saudi Arabia

The Jakarta Globe

Hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers who have been forced to live under a bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, arrived in Jakarta on Friday morning.

Rosyandi Monzier, spokesman for the National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers (BNP2TKI), said 336 Indonesians arrived at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 10:20 a.m.

The group comprised 302 migrant workers, 15 children and 19 infants.

The Indonesian government had paid for the flights and would pay for the workers to return to their home villages throughout Indonesia.

Two of the returning workers spoken to by the Jakarta Globe spoke positively of their experiences in Saudi Arabia.

Zaenab, 34, from Sumedang, said she was happy to be home but wanted to return to Saudi Arabia.

“I earned 800 riyals [Rp 1.9 million] per month and it was a lot of money. I was lucky to have a good employer, therefore I want to go back to Jeddah,” Zaenab said.

She said if her employers were not good people, she would not have worked for them for 2 years and 4 months.

Asked how she ended up living under the infamous bridge, Zaenab said she regularly sent her money home to her family and did not have enough cash to return home once her contract ended.

Halimah, 50, from Situbondo, had a similar story but unlike Zaenab said she did not want to return to the desert kingdom.

“I think it’s time for me to rest after 5 years of hard work in Jeddah to send my children to University,” Halimah said.

“The 5 years were a good experience: I earned 1200 real per month; my children have been going to university. What would I look for next? I am too tired to work as a cleaning lady in Saudi,” she said.

“I miss my family and I want to be with them,” she added.

No Hard Feelings After Life Under Saudi Bridge

The Jakarta Globe

Even after being forced to live under a bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, some Indonesian workers repatriated by the government on Friday said their experience hadn’t been all bad.

Zaenab, 34, from Sumedang in West Java, said she was happy to be home but still had plans to return to Saudi Arabia.

“I earned 800 riyals [$213] a month and it was a lot of money,” she said. “I was lucky to have a good employer.”

Zaenab ended up living under the bridge because she sent all her money home and had none left when her 28-month contract expired.

She was one of 336 Indonesian workers repatriated by the government on Friday — the second batch this week.

Hundreds of Indonesian workers were found to have been living under Kandara bridge in Jeddah after overstaying their visas and encountering problems related to their employment contracts.

The Indonesian government paid for the workers’ flights and the remainder of the trip back to their respective hometowns.

Another worker, Halimah, 50, said she had no plans to return to Saudi Arabia, but not because of any bad experiences she had there.

“I think it’s time for me to rest,” she said.

“The five years were a good experience. I earned 1,200 riyals a month, and my children have been going to university. I am now tired of working as a cleaning lady. I miss my family and I want to be with them.”

Anis Hidayah, director of Migrant Care, reminded the government that the work of solving the problem was not finished yet.

“It is easy to bring them back home, but will [the government] investigate the reason why they were under the bridge in the first place?” she asked.

FPI Threatens to Oust SBY if He Doesn’t Disband Ahmadiyah

The Jakarta Globe

About 500 people at an anti-Ahmadiyah rally led by the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Friday demanded the government disband the controversial sect, or else they will attempt to oust the president.

FPI clerics at the rally called on Indonesian Muslims to join their ranks against the Ahmadis.
“Ahmadiyah teachings say that non-Ahmadis must be killed, so they must be eliminated first,” Mishabhul Anam from FPI told the crowd.
Another orator accused the Ahmadis of being the cause of riots. “Therefore, to stop the riots they must be disbanded,” he said.
Awid Mashuri, the deputy secretary general of FPI, said there was no other option but for the government to disband Ahmadiyah.
“There is no other choice,” he said. “Government officials, most of whom are Muslim, must stand for us instead of for the Ahmadiyah. There is already a joint ministerial decree on the Ahmadiyah, the president only needs to turn it into a presidential decree.”
The protesters called President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono “banci,” which literally translates to transvestite, saying he was a coward for not disbanding Ahmadiyah.
Therefore, Awid said if the government does not disband the sect right away, they will force the president to step down.
“Ahmadiyah is a Western representation in Indonesia, which is our enemy,” Awid said.
He also accused the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) of “violating Islam” for protecting the Ahmadiyah.
The Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) leader, Muhammad Al Khaththat, said he demanded the government to take a number of actions.
“The first and foremost is SBY (Yudhoyono) must issue a decree to disband Ahmadiyah and arrest Abdul Basith, the leader of Ahmadiyah followers in Indonesia,” he said.
The rally was also seen as opportunity by some people to make money by selling books and tabloids related to Ahmadiyah.
A man was seen carrying a stack of books titled “Why I Left Ahmadiyah,” and it was sold for Rp 65,000 a piece.
A boy was also seen selling the “Suara Islam (“Islamic Voice”) tabloid, featuring FPI leader Habib Rizieq on the front page and the quote “Disband Ahmadiyah or SBY Steps Down.” The price of the tabloid is Rp 6,000 a piece but most people who bought it paid Rp 10,000.
“Keep the change, it’s my donation,” they said.
The rally is ongoing.

With reports from Beritasatu

Cinemas Face Threat of US Movie Boycott

The Jakarta Globe

Cinema screens across the country may soon have little to show except local movies if a new threat by American film producers to boycott exports to Indonesia is carried out.

The warning has come from the Motion Picture Association, the international counterpart of the Motion Picture Association of America, which has apparently been angered by a proposed levy slapped on imported films.

Freelance film reviewer Bobby Batara told the Jakarta Globe that Frank Rittman, MPA’s vice president for the Asia Pacific, aired the warning after a preview screening for journalists on Thursday of the Oscar-nominated US film “Black Swan.”

Bobby, who attended the event, said Rittman had complained about a new tax that would soon be applied by Indonesia’s customs office.

Rittman was quoted by a number of journalists at the screening as saying that the new government regulation on film importation could force big American studios to stop sending movies to Indonesian cinemas.

MPA representatives could not be reached for confirmation.

Titis Sapto Raharjo, editor in chief of Flick Online Magazine, a film review site, was also at the screening and said the rumor was that the government planned to impose a levy of 43 cents per meter of film imported.

Government officials involved in the matter declined to confirm the figure, saying only that talks were still ongoing.

Syamsul Lussa, a representative from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said he did not want to comment because the levy had not been finalized yet. “We will discuss it with the tax and customs directorate as there is a high demand for imported films in Indonesia,” he told the Globe.

Bambang Permadi Brodjonegoro, head of fiscal policy at the Ministry of Finance, said the details had not been finalized because negotiations with the MPA were still ongoing.

“I can’t provide any details until it has been discussed at the fiscal policy body. Please wait until next week,” he said in a message to the Globe. “It’s better to wait until after we have met with [officials from] customs and duties.”

Titis criticized the MPA for bringing up the issue before talks had been completed. “This is an internal discussion between the government and the MPA,” he said. “Therefore, it is very important that Frank not bring this case up to the public.”

Nauval Yazid, manager of the annual Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest), said if the threat were carried out, it would deal a significant blow to cinemas and filmgoers across the country.

“Stopping film exports to Indonesia would affect many people,” he said. “Besides, the Indonesian film industry is grappling with piracy, which cannot be stopped. It’s very important that the MPA discuss and resolve this problem with customs.”

Members of the MPA include some of the biggest studios in the United States, including Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Indonesia’s film industry has suffered a downturn in recent years. In 2009, six local films sold more than a million tickets each at the box office. In 2010, only one movie broke the million mark.

Last year, 81 Indonesian films had cinema releases, slightly down from 83 films in 2009, although a significant decline from 91 big-screen releases in 2008.