JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian television station pulled several popular U.S. wrestling programs off the air amid allegations that a 9-year-old boy may have been killed by children imitating the moves of their muscle-bound heroes.
The cause of Reza Fadillah's death has not yet been determined, but the Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. issued a statement saying it was "confident" its shows had nothing to do with the fatality.
Lativi TV pulled "SmackDown" and all other WWE programs as of Wednesday following weeks of pressure from parents and educators who said the shows encouraged violent behavior in children, said Linda Rifai, a spokeswoman for the station.
She declined to say if the move was temporary or permanent.
Reza died on Nov. 16 in the West Java city of Bandung — several weeks after three of his friends threw him to the ground and pinned him "SmackDown-style," his father, Herman Suratman, said Thursday.
He said the boy's X-rays showed internal chest wounds.
"Let my son be the last victim," he told The Associated Press. "This is a lesson, not only for Lativi and the government, but also for us parents to pay more attention to our children."
"In this era of multimedia, bad influences can easily reach our boys and girls."
The parents of a 4-year-old boy and at least eight other elementary school students have filed complaints saying their children also suffered injuries, from broken bones to vomiting blood, after practicing "SmackDown" moves.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. described the nature of Reza's death as "highly suspicious."
"Unfortunately, this is not the first time that false allegations of this type have been used to deflect attention away from those directly responsible for the death of a child," it wrote.
"The WWE urges caution in making such unsubstantiated, and now repudiated, statements, especially in light of the ongoing police investigation into the actual and true circumstances of this child's death while in the custody of others."
An autopsy was forbidden by the child's family for religious reasons, it said, adding that police were now apparently seeking his medical records.
Pediatrics magazine published a study in August that said teenagers who watched pro-wrestling were more likely to behave violently than those who did not. The findings were based on a survey of some 2,000 students at U.S. public high schools in 1999 and 2000. It did not look at younger children.
Dr. Simon Marcus Gower, a child development specialist with Australia's University of New South Wales, called Lativi's decision to scrap the shows "a step in the right direction."
But parents also had a role to play, he said.
"Appropriate supervision of children's viewing habits must surely be a bigger part of the answer," said Gower, who heads the university's Jakarta program.