Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has admitted he ordered
the Australian embassy to withdraw $18,000 of funding from a Jakarta
Film festival after he discovered it intented to screen the
controversial Australian documentary, The President versus David Hicks.

In November last year the Australian Embassy withdrew
$18,000 of promised funding for the Jakarta International Film Festival after
learning tThe President versus
David Hicks
would be screening. This important slice of funding, promised five
months before, was withdrawn 24 hours before the Festival commenced, while
Downer happened to be visiting Jakarta.

The film was still screened but the Indonesian media was incensed that the Australian government, having so
long preached the virtues of an open democracy, was now trying to dictate which
films Indonesians should see. Richard Harris, Executive Director of the
Australian Screen Directors Association, told Crikey that attempted suppression
of Australian films might engender uncertainty among filmmakers and funding
bodies, and “create an atmosphere of silence”. He said the ASDA have expressed
these concerns to DFAT but have received no response.

Following questions from Labour MP Peter Garrett last week, Downer
admitted he personally requested the funding be withdrawn, but gave no
reason. When Garrett asked Downer if he replied to correspondence from
Chairman of Indonesia’s PNBK Party raising concerns that publicity
about the withdrawal was hurting Australian-Indonesian relations,
Downer replied that “I have not seen this correspondence.”