President Joko Widodo has called for a more selective approach in the enforcement of Indonesia's Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), possibly planting the seeds for a much-needed revision to the controversial law.
In a meeting with police and military leaders in Jakarta yesterday, the president said UU ITE contains many ambiguously worded articles, which critics have long argued have been used as a tool of oppression and to silence genuine criticisms against those in power.
"The articles of law that can be interpreted in multiple ways must be interpreted carefully. We should make an official guideline for the interpretation of UU ITE articles so that it's all clear," Jokowi said.
"If UU ITE can't provide a sense of justice, I will ask the House of Representatives (DPR) to come together to revise UU ITE because it's the source [of the problems]. First and foremost, we would erase ambiguous articles that are prone to one-sided interpretations."
Such articles in UU ITE are mostly related to hate speech and are applied in conjunction with similarly ambiguous laws prohibiting blasphemy and defamation.
Coordinating Legal, Political, and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD also tweeted on the possibility of revising UU ITE yesterday.
"The government will discuss an initiative to review UU ITE. In 2007/2008, many enthusiastically called for the formation of UU ITE. If now the law is considered to be faulty and contains ambiguous articles, let us revise the law. Whatever is best, this is a democracy," Mahfud wrote.
During National Press Day last week, President Jokowi invited civilians to actively criticize the government where appropriate. However, critics say many Indonesians have grown apprehensive of criticizing the government due to the looming threat from UU ITE and associated laws on hate speech, as well as the legions of die-hard government supporters on social media, who are colloquially known as "buzzers."
It must be noted that the government has promised revisions to UU ITE before, most recently in 2019 following a controversial case in which a woman was convicted of dissemination of immoral content online after she posted an audio recording of her boss harassing her.
UU ITE was last revised in 2016, but only a few minor changes were made. Curiously, the revision expanded the law's definition of defamation and libel, and raised the maximum prison sentence for defamation to six years from four years previously.