National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti, the National Police chief, said on Saturday that there was a risk of local radicals trying to emulate the attacks, which French President Francois Hollande has blamed on the Sunni militant group Islamic State. (EPA Photo/Mast Irham)

Press Council: Hate Speech Circular Could Curb Democracy


NOVEMBER 03, 2015

Jakarta. The Chairman of Indonesia's Press Council has criticized a circular issued by the National Police ordering a crackdown on hate speech, saying that it could be used to curb democracy and freedom of speech.

Bagir Manan, a former Supreme Court chief justice, said the circular is unnecessary as there are no indicators to objectively measure intent by those charged. Public officials and others could misuse the order to suppress or jail people.

“I have my own concern about that circular. It indeed tells people to watch their tongues when it comes to spreading hatred. But it also says that there are legal actions for spreading hatred. That could be dangerous,” Bagir said on Monday.

The chairman noted that similar laws during Dutch rule led to the forced closure of local press associations believed to be "spreading hatred" of the colonial government.

“Do we really want to go back to that period of time What kind of democracy would that be if one expressed his opinions and then was sent behind bars?” Bagir said.

He dismissed the concerns of officials and political aspirants as the nature of the work.

“[Criticism] is their professional risk. As long as what the civilians criticize is their policies, it is fine. I don't see any problems in people criticizing the public officials, including in the social media platforms. And if some people were found to slander the officials, just use the existing laws to process them.”

On Monday, the National Police issued a circular ordering all officers to counter any forms of hate speech and to disband any hate speech incited riots through non-violent means, as confirmed by Ins. Gen. Anton Charliyan, a spokesman for the police.

The circular cites Indonesia's Criminal Code (KUHP) which defines hate speech as libel, defamation, unpleasant conduct, provocation, inciting violence and spreading lies.

The Code also states that hate speech includes inflicting hatred based on ethnicity, religion, belief, race, sexual orientation, skin color and disability and such speech can be spread through different platforms such as campaign orations, posters, fliers, religious sermons, social and mass media and rallies.

"This is not our way to shut down freedom of speech and I believe that nobody agrees with expressing hate speech," Anton said.