Indecency Trial Begins for Editor of Playboy Indonesia

Michael Hayes
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Local prosecutors have begun the indecency trial against Erwin Arnada, the embattled Editor-in-chief of Playboy Indonesia, who faces up to 32 months in prison if convicted on charges that he distributed indecent pictures and profited from the sale of those pictures.

In April, the launch of Playboy’s first Indonesian edition, which contained no nude photos, sparked widespread public debate over morality and decency in the largely Muslim nation.

While copies of the controversial issue sold on the streets for up to four times the cover price, hard-line Muslim protestors hurled rocks at local Playboy offices, prompting the magazine to halt briefly publication.

In June, local authorities decided to bring the indecency case against Arnada, a veteran Indonesian journalist.

At the start of his trial, Arnada told the court that Playboy was good for the country’s developing pluralistic society.

Resni Muchtar, the prosecutor in Arnada’s case, disagreed with that assessment, saying that the magazine was lewd and therefore in violation of the law.

“Photos, drawings and articles in Playboy Indonesia magazine were results of the defendant's selection,” Muchtar said. “They were unsuitable for civility and could arouse lust among readers so they violated feelings of decency.”

Since the start of the trial, Playboy Indonesia has moved operations to the island of Bali, a predominantly Hindu region considered to be far less conservative. The magazine is still available at newsstands throughout the country, and the government has made no move to ban the publication.

Indonesia, which is home to 220 million people, 85 percent of whom are Muslims, allows a variety of Western publications including Maxim and FHM. According to local reports, the pages of Playboy Indonesia are far less racy than content found in other rival men’s magazines.

In addition to its flagship American magazine, Playboy publishes 20 editions worldwide tailored to meet local standards and tastes.