Jakarta – The non-government organisation (NGO) Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) says that police violated the law when they arrested a farmer who held up a poster during President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's visit to Blitar, East Java, on Tuesday September 7.
Imparsial Director Gufron Mabruri said that holding up the poster was part of the farmer's right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed under Article 28E Paragraph (2) of the 1945 Constitution and the law on freedom to express an opinion in public.
"The action of blocking, never mind prohibiting and arresting a farmer who was expressing an opinion was an excessive use of force and it is appropriate that this be seen as violating Law Number 9/1998 on the Freedom to Express an Opinion in Public", said Mabruri in a press release on Wednesday September 8.
Mabruri said that such repressive actions add to the list of violations of freedom of expression and opinion under Widodo's watch. He added that according to the Central Statistics Agency Indonesia's democratic index has continued to decline since 2018.
Imparsial is urging Widodo to put his house in order and hopes that he will protect people expressing an opinion in public.
"The Jokowi government cannot be allergic to criticism and protests by people and must explicitly prohibit government officials from acting repressively towards those who protest or criticise the government", said Mabruri.
Furthermore, Impartial is calling for the release of the farmer who held up the poster during Widodo's visit and is urging the police leadership take action against the officer concerned.
"So that the police leadership take concrete steps by evaluating police officers who are proven to have committed both ethical as well as criminal violations", said Mabruri.
Earlier on Tuesday, a man held up a poster when President Widodo was conducting a working visit to Blitar. The incident occurred when Widodo was leaving a Covid-19 vaccination centre and returning to the Bung Karno cemetery.
The poster read, "Pak [Mr] Jokowi help livestock breeders buy corn at reasonable prices". The poster was held up as Widodo was smiling and waving to people.
A short time later the poster was seized and a police officer arrested the man, who was then forced into a police car. (dhf/pmg)
CNN Indonesia reported on September 9 that the farmer was later released and the following day received "help" from Blitar district police chief Yudhi Hery Setyawan in the form of a packet of basic commodities (sembako). "The Blitar city district police held a friendly meeting with the Blitar regency National Breeders Association and gave them sembako from Indonesian President Jokowi", Setyawan was quoted as telling CNN.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Penangkapan Pria Protes Jokowi di Blitar Dinilai Langgar UU".]