Press groups slam blanket ban on reporting, reading or sharing info on outlawed FPI

CNN Indonesia – January 1, 2021
Police remove signboard from FPI HQ in Jakarta following ban – December 30, 2020 (Suara)

Jakarta – The press community is calling on Indonesian police chief (Kapolri) General Idham Azis to revoke Article 2d of Kapolri Decree Number: Mak/1/I/2021 on Obeying the Prohibition on Activities, the Use of Symbols and Attributes and Halting the Activities of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The press community is made up of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI), the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI), Indonesian Photo Reporters (PFI), the Chief Editors Forum (Forum Pemred) and the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI).

In a written press release, the groups stated that Article 2d in the decree is excessive and not in accordance with the spirit of a democratic country which respects the public's right to freely obtain and disseminate information.

"This is not in accordance with the spirit of democracy which respects the freedom to obtain information and could also threaten journalists and the media whose principle duty is to seek out information and disseminate it to the public as widely as possible", read the press release.

Article 2d of the Kapolri Decree states: "The public shall not access, upload or disseminate content related to the FPI either through a website or social media".

This conflicts with Article 28F of the 1946 Constitution which reads, "Everyone has the right to communicate and obtain information for the development of themselves and their social environment, as well as the right to seek out, obtain, posses, store, manage and convey information using all types of [communication] channels available".

Furthermore, the community also said that Article 2d threatens the work of journalists and the media because as a profession they are tasked with seeking out and disseminating information to the public, including about the FPI.

They said that a journalist's right to seek out information is regulated under Article 4 of Law Number 40/1999 on the Press, the contents of which states, "In order to guarantee press freedom, the national press has the right to seek out, obtain and disseminate ideas and information".

"The contents of the decree, which will apply to anyone who spreads information about the FPI, can also be categorised as a "ban on broadcasting", which conflicts with Article 4 Paragraph 2 of the Press Law", they said.

Because the decree contains stipulations which are not in accordance with the principles of a democratic country, is not in accord with the 1945 Constitution and conflicts with the Press Law, the Press Community is urging General Idham Azis to revoke Article 2d from the decree.

"[We] appeal to the national press to continue reporting on issues which are related to the public interest as mandated by the Press Law", the group said.

National police spokesperson Inspector General Argo Yuwono meanwhile asserted that the Kapolri decree banning the dissemination of content about the FPI does not obstruct freedom of the press.

According to Yuwono, in issuing the ban, the police are only emphasising that the public not disseminate fake news or hoaxes which disturb public order and security (kamtibmas).

"The most important thing for us in issuing this decree is that we are not muzzling press content, no", Yuwono told journalists at the Criminal Investigation Bureau building on Friday January 1.

"Meaning that with point 2d, as long as it doesn't contain fake news, has potential to disturb kamtibmas, or play people off against each other or create disunity and SARA [ethnic, religion, race, inter-group inspired conflicts], then it's not a problem", he repeated.

In the decree issued by Azis on January 1, it also states that if actions are discovered with conflict with the decree then police officers are obliged to take action in accordance with the stipulations of prevailing laws or at the discression of the police. (yoa/sur)

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. Three paragraphs at the end of the article were repetitious and not translated. The original title of the article was "Komunitas Pers Minta Kapolri Cabut Pasal 2d Maklumat soal FPI".]