Jokowi's pledge to revise ITE Law just image building: Political observer

CNN Indonesia – February 19, 2021
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo speaking on the phone – Undated (Biro Pers)

Jakarta – Exposit Strategy Political Analyst Arif Susanto has warned that the discourse on revisions to the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law which have been proposed recently are nothing more than means to improve the government's image.

This suspicion arose because, according to Susanto, the initiative to revise the ITE Law surfaced in the midst of a storm of domestic and international criticism. The latest being a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which found that Indonesia's democracy index had declined.

Indonesia was placed 64th out of 167 countries. The drop in the democracy index was followed by a round of criticism about freedom of expression from the public.

"It is reasonable for us to suspect that President Jokowi's [Joko Widodo] statement about the importance of revising the ITE Law is [being used] as a means for political image building, why is this so, because prior to this there was international world attention and domestic public criticism which showed that the government has been unable to achieve any real gains", said Susanto during a virtual discussion titled Revising the ITE Law: After the Victims have Fallen on Friday February 19.

Susanto explained that there were at least two sources of criticism from the international community which may perhaps have been a consideration for Widodo to find a way of salvaging his image.

Aside from the Economist Intelligence Unit report which stated that Indonesia had recorded the lowest democracy index score in the last 14 years, there was also the Indonesia's Corruption Perception Index (IPK) score which dropped to 102th out of 180 countries.

"If we ask, what were the government's achievements that we can be proud of in the last year-and-a-half, there were almost none. What there was instead was [a storm of] criticism", said Susanto.

Susanto also suspects that news of revisions to the ITE Law is just part of political bartering. He believes that there is a possibility that the proposed revisions to the law will be pushed aside by other draft laws which are already certain to be included in the 2021 Priority National Legislation Program (Prolegnas).

"It is appropriate for us to be concerned that the planned revisions to the ITE Law are part of political bartering. What we must also be on guard for is the possibility that even if the ITE Law revisions are included in the Prolegnas, it's not out of the question that other draft laws included in the Prolegnas will be dropped", he said.

Susanto suspects that there is a possibility that some of the draft laws listed in the 2021 Prolegnas have the potential to threaten the government's popularity, although he did not site which draft laws he considers may be a threat.

"So I doubt if the government is serious about revising the ITE Law", he reiterated.

Suspicions that the revisions to the law are part of image building have also come from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

Kontras considers that the news on the ITE Law revisions surfaced simply as a way of salvaging the government's image because it frequently criminalises people critical of the government.

In a speech earlier, Widodo raised the possibility of revising the law if it is proven that the legislation has not provided a sense of justice.

"If the ITE Law cannot provide a sense of justice, then yes I will ask the DPR [House of Representatives] to jointly revise the law", said Widodo as quoted from the Presidential Secretariat YouTube channel on Monday February 15.

So far however, the discourse has yet to come to anything.

Widodo has instructed Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to draft revisions to Law Number 19/2016 on Revisions to Law Number 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transaction.

Widodo has also raised the idea of drafting official guidelines on interpreting the ITE Law. A number of experts have questioned the legal authority of such guidelines. (mln/nma)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pengamat Curiga Misi di Balik Wacana Revisi UU ITE Jokowi".]