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Indonesia bans LGBT emojis despite Human Rights Watch concerns

A social media platform has pulled the plug on LGBT emojis following a possible ban by the information ministry. Human rights watchdog HRW has called on the Indonesian president to condemn officials' anti-LGBT remarks.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday urged Indonesian President Joko Widodo to condemn anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) statements by officials after the information ministry said online messaging platforms could be banner for carrying "LGBT stickers" and emojis on their services.

"President Jokowi should urgently condemn anti-LGBT remarks by officials before such rhetoric opens the door to more abuses," said HRW's LGBT right director Graeme Reid in the letter.

The letter documented several incidents in which officials violated LGBT people's "internationally protected rights to education, health and access to information," according to HRW.

"Protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination is part of Indonesia's human rights commitments. President Jokowi should make an unambiguous statement of support for the fundamental rights of all Indonesians and pledge to protect LGBT people from attacks," Reid added.

Blocking LGBT content?

On Thursday, Indonesian information ministry spokesperson Ismail Cawidu said social media platforms could be banned for not removing LGBT emoticons and stickers from their service.

Cawidu added that a "panel of experts" was formed to review whether an online messaging service should be blocked for distributing "LGBT content."

"We can tell them that this is not in accordance with our culture, if it is decided by the panel," Cawidu said in a statement on the ministry's website.

Line, a Japanese messaging app popular in Malaysia, apologized for "sensitive" stickers hosted on its platform after announcing it was "in the process of removing these stickers" in a statement posted on its Malaysian service Facebook page.

"We appreciated their stride in addressing the things that potentially cause public rest, especially the concerns of mothers of children on the negative influence of the circulation of LGBT stickers," said Cawidu, referring to Line's decision.

While it is considered a taboo in the country, homosexuality is not outlawed in Indonesia, except for the Aceh province.

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ls/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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