Government's cyber law review team criticised for not involving independent parties

CNN Indonesia – February 23, 2021
Security chief Mahfud MD speaking to reporters – Undated (CNN)

Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition has criticised the appointment of a team to review the Information and Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE) through a decree issued on February 22 by Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Mahfud MD.

The Coalition, which is made up of several non-government organisations (NGOs) says the review team will not provide the results hoped for by the public.

"The selection of the UU ITE review team will not provide the results hoped for by the public", said the Coalition in a press release on Tuesday February 22.

First, they believe that the team does not include any independent parties so it will be unable to look at the implications of the law's use in violating citizen's human rights.

An independent party would be, for example, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) which frequently receives public complains about the catchall articles in the law.

Then there is also the National Commission on Violence Against Women (National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) which has also been active in receiving complaints from victims of gender violence in the virtual world.

"So far the UU ITE's catchall articles show they were mostly used by people who have power (the authorities, business people or security officials), so it is almost certain that the selection of the UU ITE review team without involving independent elements will in fact preserve these catchall articles", the groups said.

There is also concern that the team of experts will be one-sided in carrying out the study. On the other hand, the Coalition is concerned that the review team is led by people who have the potential to obstruct efforts to revise the law.

"The appointment of the UU ITE team, which is considered problematic, sends a message that the government is not serious about pursuing President Jokowi's [President Joko Widodo] request to study the potential for injustice in the UU ITE", they said.

The Coalition is therefore pushing the government to involve independent parties in the review team.

They also reject the team because it is more focused on formulating criteria and guidelines on the enforcement of certain articles in the law.

"Guidelines on interpreting [the problematic articles] will not respond to the root of the problem which is faced by this nation as a consequence of the UU ITE's catchall articles", said the Coalition in the release.

The review team, they said, must study the problematic articles in the UU ITE, including catchall articles used in enforcing the law.

"[We are] urging the review team to actively involve academics, victims [of the law], female victims, activists, human rights defenders and media groups in the study of the UU ITE articles", they said accusingly.

The review team comprises a management team and an executive team. The management team is made up of Mahfud, Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, Communications and Information Minister Johnny G Plate, Attorney General ST Burhanuddin and Indonesian police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo.

The executive ream is headed up by Sugeng Purnomo, who is the deputy coordinator for law and human rights at the Coordinating Ministry for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Menko Polhukam), along with Imam Marsudi, a Menko Polhukam special staff member for social and cultural affairs as the team's secretary.

They are tasked with coordinating the collection of information, drafting a legal study of the law's regulatory implementation and an assessment of the substance of the law. (mjo/psp)


According to the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), between 2008 (when the law was enacted) and 2019, the Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE) has been used to prosecute 285 cases. The rate of prosecution increased in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic with some 110 people being charged. The Civil Society Coalition reported that between 2016 and 2020, 96.8 percent (744 cases) of prosecutions under the ITE Law resulted in convictions and 88 percent resulted in incarceration.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Tim UU ITE Mahfud Dikritik Tak Libatkan Pihak Independen".]