Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) — Police in Indonesia were on Monday investigating video clips that allegedly show three celebrities taking part in sex acts. The images, spreading online and via cellphones, have shocked the modest Muslim nation.
Following police raids on Internet cafes and schools where the videos may have been viewed, the scandal has also sparked concerns over freedom of speech and attempts to punish immorality.
One of the videos allegedly features pop singer Nazril Ilham, better known as Ariel, with his girlfriend Luna Maya, a model and TV journalist who interviewed Hillary Clinton on her show “Dahsyat” during the U.S. secretary of state’s visit to Indonesia last year. Another video allegedly shows sex scenes between Ariel and Cut Tari, a soap opera star and TV journalist. All three celebrities have publicly denied appearing in the tapes, saying the people in the footage just looked like them. They could not be reached for further comment.
Police have launched an inquiry over possible breaches of the anti-pornography law, which can be punishable by 12 years in prison. Ariel and Maya were questioned at a Jakarta police station Friday while Tari was questioned separately on Monday, police spokesman Marwoto Futowijoyo said. So far, no one has been charged in the case.
“We are coordinating with experts and the Ministry of Information to determine who uploaded the video. We will also begin to remove the online links to the video,” said Zainuri, deputy spokesman for the national police.
There are questions about what will happen next for the celebrities. Ariel has delayed the release of a new album by his band Peterpan as the scandal shows no sign of abating. Ariel and Maya were featured in an advertisement for Lux soap, but the campaign has since been wound down. However the company did not specifically point to the scandal.
The first video surfaced last week on several Web sites and went viral through social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. On Tuesday, after the release of the second video allegedly featuring Ariel and Tari, the term “Ariel Peterporn,” a spin on the singer’s name and his band, became a top trending topic on Twitter.
The videos have sparked protests by conservative Islamic groups and others around the country condemning the celebrities. Two office workers in central Jakarta told CNN they felt let down by the allegations. One worker, Anindita Oei, said: “I used to think that Ariel was a good, talented person, (but) I was shocked to see the video. Now I feel like he’s not a good public figure.” Diah Ayu Sitoresmi said: “I was a fan of Ariel, I used to think that he looked cool, mysterious. Now I just see him like any other misbehaving superstar, and I think from an Eastern culture point of view, videotaping sex scenes is unacceptable and stupid.”
The popularity of the videos has also sparked concerns among parents. “Even if I’m confident that my children will not change their moral value if they were exposed to the video, I’m putting precautions in place, such as activating a parental lock on my home computer,” said mother-of-three Dian Estey.
The information ministry said it was helping police in the effort to trace the person or persons who uploaded the videos, adding that although officials had no plan for a nationwide Internet censorship move, this was still possible. Meanwhile, raids on Internet cafes and the search of student cellphones at schools — both confirmed by police — have raised fears among defenders of free speech.
“The spread of this video is very worrying, especially if the government or the information minister try to use it to implement a ministerial regulation on new media content,” the chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, Nezar Patria, told the New York Times.
“It’s kind of a test, not only of how far the anti-pornography law can be used, but also a test of how the instruments of the government respond to content that wasn’t around five years ago.”
CNN’s Andy Saputra contributed to this report.