Plan to increase use of cyber police threat to freedom of expression: Kontras

Source – December 28, 2020
Kontras coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti (centre) speaking in Jakarta – December 7, 2018 (onya Michaella)

Tsarina Maharani, Jakarta – Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti says that the government's plan to upgrade the activities of the cyber police in 2021 threatens civil freedoms, particularly freedom of expression.

Yet, said Maulidiyanti, the constitution guarantees citizens' right to freedom of expression and opinion.

"The government's move will further stifle civil freedoms, particularly related to freedom of expression and will clearly violate the right to freedom of expression which is protected by the constitution", said Maulidiyanti when contacted on Monday December 28.

Maulidiyanti said that it is quite possible that even more people will be criminalised for publically disagreeing with government policies. If so, according to Maulidiyanti, Indonesia will return to an era of authoritarianism.

"In the end this will also head towards an authoritarian culture, an era where the public isn't allowed to criticise anything", she said.

Democracy in Indonesia, she said, will no longer have any meaning and upholding democracy will simply be a formality. "Democracy will only be restricted to formalities, but in reality there will not be any proper implantation", said Maulidiyanti.

As has been reported, Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs, Mahfud MD, said recently that next year the government will massively upgrade the activities of the cyber police. According to Mahfud, the government has been too tolerant of misinformation which threatens or demeans dignity.

"Digital attacks are indeed a dilemma, but we have decided on having the cyber police. In 2021 they will really be activated because [we've been] too tolerant and it's also dangerous", said Mahfud in a special interview with Kompas published on Saturday December 26.

The cyber police referred to by Mahfud will provide counter-narratives if there is news spreading on social media which is incorrect, so the government will enliven social media with counter information.

Meanwhile if there are issues which can be categorised as legal violations, then it will be acted upon in accordance with prevailing laws.

"At the moment it's really easy for the cyber police, if for example you receive a distressing report then it can be reported to the [cyber] police", said Mahfud. "Within just a few minutes [they can] work out who it came from, where, then find the perpetrator and arrest them", he added.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kontras: Polisi Siber yang Akan Diaktifkan Pemerintah Berpotensi Bungkam Kebebasan Berekspresi".]