The Indonesian Journalist Alliance (AJI) has called out the bill for threatening press freedom. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Journalist Alliance Objects to Draconian Criminal Code Bill


SEPTEMBER 02, 2019

Jakarta. An association of Indonesian journalists has asked the government to reconsider a Criminal Code bill which if passed could be used to persecute anyone deemed to have insulted or defamed the president, vice president or judges in a court case.

The Indonesian Journalist Alliance (AJI) has called out the bill for threatening press freedom.

"There are at least 10 articles in the bill that can curtail press freedom since they have the potential to prevent journalists from doing their job, which is to deliver information [to the public]," AJI chairman Abdul Manan said in Jakarta on Monday.

The articles Abdul referred to are: article 219 on insulting the president or vice president, article 241 on insulting the government, article 247 on inciting rebellion against a state leader, article 262 on distributing fake news, article 263 on inaccurate news, article 281 on contempt of court, article 305 on blasphemy, article 354 on insulting a public authority or state institution, article 440 on defamation and article 444 on slandering the dead. 

"The fact that these 10 articles exist means the government and the House of Representatives have not been listening to public criticism of the Criminal Code all this time. Instead, they've even added new articles that will threaten freedom of the press," Abdul said.

According to AJI, the government should drop the articles because they are undemocratic.

Abdul said some of the articles in the bill, such as the one that bans criticism of judges, are simply bizarre since journalists are obliged to report everything that happens in a court case, including any criticism of the judges' performance, sometimes even by publishing their track record.

"Journalists will be threatened with criminalization. They won't be able to write critically about a court case anymore. Questioning a judge's integrity will be totally out of bounds," Abdul said.

Meanwhile, the Legal Aid Agency for the Press (LBH Pers) said the articles are too vague and lend themselves to overtly subjective interpretations.

"[For example,] there is no clear definition of what constitutes an attack on a judge's integrity. Interpretations will vary, but we don't want another version of the slander law, when it's up to the individuals to decide if a slander has been committed," LBH Pers executive Ade Wahyudin said on Monday.