Jakarta – The Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam) says that freedom of expression and opinion in Indonesia has declined since 2014. Citing data from the Freedom House website, Elsam said that for the last five years freedom of expression in Indonesia has been rated as no longer free.
“Actually, in the context of freedom of expression and opinion, we have since 2014, according to Freedom House, we have dropped from [a rating of] free to partly free. Meaning there has been a retreat of democracy in the enjoyment of freedom of opinion and expression in Indonesia”, said Elsam researcher Lintang Setianti during a discussion titled After the Dark Comes Overcast Skies in Jakarta on Tuesday October 15.
In the explanation on the website, Indonesia’s freedom of expression declined in 2014 in concert with the enactment of the Social Organisation Law (UU Ormas) in mid-2013. The law was seen as curbing the freedom of association for Indonesia’s citizens, particularly after a series of discriminatory incidents involving followers of the Ahmadiyah religious sect.
Since dropping to the level of partly free, there has been no progress on freedom of expression. Elsam is of the view that the government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has played a part in this decline.
One of the issues which was highlighted was the increasing use of vague articles to criminalise activists. The Law on Electronic Transactions and Information (UU ITE), the articles on makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) and the article in the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy, have been the articles most often used to criminalise people for expressing an opinion.
“The articles are still vague because they have the potential for cherry picking, meaning that law enforcement officials only follow up on postings which for example criticise the government”, said Setianti.
Setianti predicts that Widodo’s second term will not be very different if these vague articles and law enforcement is not reevaluated.
“I don’t want to sound bleak, but it will be tiring, it will be very tiring like over the last few months where we have been tired of seeing news reports of so many arrests, so much criminalisation”, he said.
So far the Palace has yet to make a statement on the decline of Indonesia’s freedom of expression index. (dhf/DAL)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Elsam: Kebebasan Berekspresi Mundur sejak Jokowi Berkuasa".]