JAKARTA--(UPDATE) Indonesia ended its blockade of websites carrying a controversial anti-Islam film and apologized to the public on Friday after a string of angry complaints and accusations of censorship.
Access was restored to YouTube, MySpace and other prominent sites by the country's main Internet service providers, who barred them this week at the government's request.
"Access to YouTube and several other sites has been re-opened after Internet providers received overwhelming protests from users," Heru Nugroho, of the Indonesian Internet providers' association, told AFP.
"We discussed the complaints with the ministry and they agree with us."
Indonesia's communications minister Muhammad Nuh apologized for the blockade targeting the 17-minute "Fitna," which splices images of terrorist attacks with quotes from the Koran and has provoked protests in several Muslim countries.
"I openly ask the public's forgiveness for the inconvenience caused over the past few days by the blocking of sites," Nuh told journalists on Friday.
"This was a consequence of a process designed to protect the state."
The government has faced accusations of censorship over the ban, and many small business owners said it affected their livelihoods. Internet providers said they would instead try to block access to individual pages carrying "Fitna."
Nuh wrote to YouTube last week asking it to remove the film. In a reply seen by AFP, YouTube owner Google said it would seek an "agreeable solution" but would not "unnecessarily block legal videos from Indonesian users."
"We propose that the ministry send a list of videos believed to be illegal, noting the specific web addresses. We will promptly review the ministry's list and remove any illegal videos from display to Indonesian YouTube users," it said.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists said the blockade amounted to censorship, comparing it to "destroying a restaurant to kill a fly," while the Jakarta Post in an editorial Friday called it "dumb and dangerous."
"Indonesia's commitment to freedom of expression and the right to information, both of which are guaranteed in the constitution, are now being put in doubt," the daily said.
But communications minister Nuh used a different analogy.
"This is like removing a tumor and giving the person a general anaesthetic," he said.
"After the tumor is successfully removed or isolated then we are okay."
Nugroho said many Indonesian small business owners who use the sites to showcase their products had been affected by the blocking of YouTube and Multiply.com, a networking site.
"Many of our users use YouTube or Multiply for their business," he said.
"We will block direct links to the web pages that have the film. It's the film we are concerned with, not YouTube."
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has banned screenings of "Fitna" and barred the Dutch lawmaker behind it from entering Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Lawmaker Geert Wilders' film has sparked protests in several Muslim countries including Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Afghanistan since it was posted on the Internet last month.
Anti-Dutch protests were held in Jakarta last week, and demonstrators from a Muslim student group vandalized a Dutch consulate building.