The former editor of the short-lived Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine has said his release from prison marks a victory for press freedom in the country.
Erwin Arnada was released on Friday afternoon from East Jakarta’s Cipinang Penitentiary, where he had been detained since October for public indecency.
“My release is proof that freedom of the press in Indonesia is still respected, and I hope there will be no other journalists prosecuted as I have been under the Criminal Code,” he said outside the prison’s gates, where he brandished the official order for his release and donned a T-shirt reading: “Journalism is not a crime.”
“I do not feel that I have become a victim or a hero. I feel that I have become part of Indonesian history in fighting for freedom of the press. And I believe the statement on my T-shirt explains more than what I just said.”
Muslim hard-liners pressed charges of public indecency against Erwin in 2007, shortly after the launch of the local version of Playboy, which did not feature nudity. He was later acquitted by the South Jakarta District Court, which ruled that it should be dealt with through the Press Law and not the Criminal Code.
However, on appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 2009 and sentenced Erwin to two years in jail. In May, however, the court overturned its own ruling — although an official copy of the decision only reached Todung Mulya Lubis, Erwin’s lawyer, this week.
Todung said he appreciated the court’s latest verdict. “This is not only a victory for Erwin Arnada, but also a victory for Indonesian press freedom,” he said.
“We also want to thank the Supreme Court for its commitment to enforcing the Press Law as a lex specialis law,” he added, referring to the legal doctrine that states specific laws cannot be overridden by general legislation.
Erwin said he would not file a lawsuit against the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which first pressed charges against him.
“The one thing I want to say about the FPI sending me to jail is that my parents taught me to be forgiving instead of being slanderous,” he said. “I just hope that my reputation can be rehabilitated. However, I understand that it will take some time and we will keep trying to work on it.”
Erwin also said he would go back into the publishing business, but headed off any talk about reviving Playboy Indonesia, citing security concerns.
He said his immediate plan was to visit his mother’s grave.