Civil surveillance

Kompas – December 4, 2019

Civil servant: If you’ve got any criticisms, aspirations, is that allowed?

On November 12, 11 ministries and state institutions signed a Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB Radikalisme) prohibiting civil servants from expressing opinions on social media that contain “hate speech” against the state ideology of Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the country’s motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) and the government.

It further decrees that civil servants cannot share posts that express opinions on such issues or show their approval for them by liking or commenting on any posts.

The government also established a website for the public to report “radical” content posted by civil servants with the Communications Ministry claiming the site is intended “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism”.

While illiberal and conservative Islamic ideas have indeed gained a foothold in many government and educational institutions, critics point out that the term “radical” is vague, extremely broad and open to abuse.

Fears have also been expressed that the lax definition of what constitutes radicalism allows the government to brand critics as “radical” as a way to silence them. They point out that even before the introduction of the new regulation, the label “radical” had been used to attack and discredit dissenters and political opponents.

In September, when the government rushed through highly unpopular revisions to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law – which was strongly opposed by many within the KPK itself – the agency was labelled a hotbed of radicalism and “radicals”.

Members of the KPK were targeted for their personal religious beliefs and expressions of their beliefs through their style of clothing in an effort to discredit them.

KPK senior investigator Novel Baswedan in particular was singled out by government supporters and social media buzzers who accused him of being a member of a secret “Taliban” sleeper cell solely based on his style of style of dress – pants above the ankles and a long beard.