JAKARTA - INDONESIANS grappled with their first-ever celebrity sex-tape scandal, casting aside social taboos as they swarmed around office computers and mobile phones to watch clips allegedly showing a much-loved pop star with two girlfriends.
The story topped newscasts for a week and dominated chatter on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But just as controversial was the reaction of officials in the newly democratic nation.
Police threatened to charge the 'stars' under a strict anti-pornography law, which could land them in jail for up to 10 years. Several high schools were raided for mobile phones so the offending clips could be removed. And some ministers said the incident pointed, once again, to moral decay and the need for stricter controls of the Internet.
Indonesia, a secular nation with more Muslims than any other in the world, emerged from 32 years of dictatorship in 1998. It won praise for tackling the tough tasks of fighting corruption and terrorism and implementing widely lauded social and economic reforms. But it still faces challenges on the road to democratisation, from the explosion of grass-roots campaigning on the Web to old-style politicians, who speak to small constituencies or narrow-based parties rather than the central government, said sociologist Wimar Witoelar.
For some, the initial instinct still is to clamp down. When the scandal spurred debate as to whether education about sex - a subject still taboo at home and in the classroom - should be added to the school curriculum, Minister of Education Muhammad Nuh responded with a flat out 'no.' 'I may be obsolete, but I don't see that sex education in schools is needed,' he told reporters. 'I believe people will learn about sex naturally.'
Instead, he recommended authorities search students' mobile phones for copies of the tapes, the rapid dissemination of which 'violates the rules and cultural norms in a religious society.' 'Whoever is responsible should be punished,' Nuh said.
Brig. Zainuri Lubis, the deputy national police spokesman, said Monday the probe was ongoing. If found guilty of violating a tough anti-pornography law, they could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of US$500,000 (S$697,745), even if there was no indication the intimate, but explicit, sex scenes were ever intended for public viewing. -- AP