'Jokowi ad' in cinemas irks Indonesia's opposition, moviegoers

The three-minute commercial featured Indonesian President Joko Widodo's achievements, and has sparked complaints from the opposition and some moviegoers. PHOTO: YOUTUBE/PRESIDEN JOKO WIDODO

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A public service commercial that was broadcast in cinemas and featured Indonesian President Joko Widodo's achievements has sparked complaints from the opposition and some moviegoers.

The complaint began to attract the attention of Twitter users after urban activist Marco Kusumawijaya compiled all the complaints in a single tweet.

The three-minute commercial showed footage of 65 newly built dams and reservoirs throughout the country, as well as testimony from a farmer who was grateful for them because it helped him and other farmers continuously plant their crops without having to wait for the rainy season.

Some Twitter users said the public service ad had ruined their movie night.

Twitter user @nynazka is believed to be the first to bring the issue to light: "I just watched a movie in a Cinema XXI theater. Please give me back my wasted three minutes when I was so eager to watch movie trailers but then a Jokowi commercial popped up. It's spoiling the atmosphere. I went to the theatre to have fun and watch movies!"

As of Wednesday (Sept 12), the tweet garnered 1,282 retweets and 2,383 likes before the user decided to make her profile private.

Meanwhile, another user, @TPranawisanty, said she was annoyed by the ad, which was displayed before she watched The Nun, a spin-off of the horror movie franchise The Conjuring, in Bogor, West Java. The ad, she said jokingly, made the movie less scary.

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The opposition is taking the complaint seriously, saying it should be taken down, as it looked more like a campaign for the incumbent, who is seeking re-election in 2019, than a public service announcement.

Responding to Twitter users' complaints, Gerindra Party deputy chairman Fadli Zon tweeted on Wednesday that "the ad should be taken down".

A senior politician from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Mr Hidayat Nur Wahid, made the same call on Thursday, saying: "I agree if the ad gets taken down."

The Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), however, said the government and the Jokowi camp did nothing wrong by airing the ad.

"Since the General Elections Commission (KPU) has yet to determine definitive candidates for the 2019 presidential election, the ad is just an ordinary government commercial showing their accomplishments," Bawaslu commissioner Rahmat Bagja said. The case, he added, could have been different if it were aired during the campaign period.

The government, meanwhile, insisted that the ad was not about President Joko, whose nickname is Jokowi, and refused to take it down as requested by the opposition camp.

The Communications and Information Ministry said in a statement that it had made the video to show the current government's accomplishments, and that it was part of the ministry's job as stipulated in the 2008 law on state ministries.

"The public service announcement is shown at movie theatres as a channel that was considered right on target due to its measured number of viewers," said Mr Ferdinandus Setu, acting head of the ministry's public relations bureau, on Wednesday.

The commercial, he added, was financed by the ministry's budget and had been planned since mid 2017.

But some people said it was hard not to perceive the commercial as anything other than a political ad for the President.

Ms Nabillah Ayu, 21, a student from Bekasi, West Java, said she had no problem with public service commercials in theatres, but added that she could understand why some people saw it as campaign ad.

"I don't mind the commercial because it was informative, but some people may think that Jokowi is starting his campaign earlier than he should," she said.

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