Farouk Arnaz, Jakarta – The police are investigating alleged death threats made to several students at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta that forced the cancellation of a discussion on presidential impeachment last week.
The students at the university's Law Faculty, who are part of a study group called the Constitutional Law Society, were supposed to hold the discussion, originally titled "Problems With Dismissing the President Amid a Pandemic as Seen From a Constitutional Perspective" on Friday.
They had later changed the discussion's title to "Clearing Up the Issue of Presidential Dismissal From a Constitutional Perspective."
The students received the death threats on their phones before the discussion could take place.
Speakers invited to the discussion, including Ni'matul Huda, a professor of state administration at the Islamic University of Indonesia (UII), also in Yogyakarta, also received similar threats.
"Until last night, none of them had reported [the threats] to us," Comr. Yulianto, Yogyakarta Police's public relations head, said on Sunday.
"But despite that, we've already begun collecting information on the alleged threats," Yulianto said.
Sigit Riyanto, the dean of UGM's Law Faculty, condemning the death threats to his students in a statement on Friday.
"We need to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression. Discussions like this should be allowed to go on," Sigit said.
He said the death threats were "serious threats to academic freedom, [which use] brutal intimidation to cancel a discussion."
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said he regretted the incident, urging the students to report it to the police to be investigated.
The minister separately told Kompas TV the government was definitely not behind the threats.
Human rights watchdog Setara Institute, however, was quick to point out the incident was only the latest example of deteriorating freedom of expression under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration.
Setara's Human Rights Performance Index 2019 showed the Jokowi administration scoring only 1.9 in freedom of expression and expressing opinions during its first term in 2014-2019.
The index is measured on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 indicating the most amount of government repression.
According to data from Setara, 204 individuals were prosecuted for expressing their opinions during the period. A total of 32 online media outlets and close to a million websites and social media accounts were blocked by the government, seven public discussions were canceled, books were banned and seven people arrested on dubious treason charges.
"Human rights violations and persecutions committed against citizens are the responsibility of the state, especially the government," Setara said in a statement.
By refusing to take action on such violations, Setara said the government could be considered to benefit from them. "Silencing resistance gives political benefits to the government," Setara said.