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Minister Luhut's lawsuit against activists a 'retreat for democracy'

Kompas.com - September 23, 2021

Tatang Guritno, Jakarta – The criminal lawsuit filed against human rights activists Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar for alleged defamation is seen as a retreat for democracy.

The lawsuit was filed by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan based on the articles on tarnishing a person's good name under the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law.

Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (Safenet) Executive Director Damar Juniarto believes that the lawsuit is at odds with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo statement asking the public to actively criticise the government.

Widodo made the statement was during the launch of the Ombudsman's 2020 annual report on Monday February 8.

"It is as if this case sends a message which is the opposite of the president's statement that he wants the people to criticise him and his administration. The lawsuit also sends a message [to people] not to tangle with [public] officials", said Juniarto when contacted on Thursday September 23.

The suit began from a discussion between Azhar and Maulidiyanti on the results of research that alleged that Pandjaitan is involved in mining businesses in Intan Jaya, Papua. The discussion was broadcast through YouTube.

Juniarto said that on June 26 the government issued a joint decree (SKB) which regulates the guidelines for interpreting the catchall articles in the ITE Law which are often misused.

Article 27 Paragraph 3 Point c of the SKB states that defamation it is not an offence if it is the form of research, an opinion, the results of an evaluation or a fact.

Then in Point f it states that the article on defamation do not apply to institutions, corporations, professions or a public office.

According to Juniarto, the opinions expressed by Maulidiyanti and Azhar in relation to Pandjaitan in exploiting gold at the Wabu Block in Intan Jaya were directed at Panjaitan as a public official, not personally.

On the other hand, Juniarto is of the view that this shows that the ITE Law is still being used by those in power to criminalise those who are seen as weaker.

"It is characterised in an asymmetric relationship, where those who have power use the ITE Law against people who are weaker. The law always comes down hard on those below, and goes easy on those above", said Juniarto.

The discussion between Azhar and Maulidiyanti on Pandjaitan's alleged involvement in mining businesses in Papua was broadcast on Azhar's YouTube channel on the NgeHAMtam program and titled "There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations and Military Operations in Intan Jaya!!! There are also State Intelligence Agency Generals!!".

The discussion was based on a report by the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) National Executive, the People's Earth Heritage Foundation (Pusaka), Walhi Papua, the Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Papua), Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), Greenpeace Indonesia and Trend Asia titled "The Economic and Political Placement of the Military In Papua: The Intan Jaya Case".

Quoting from kontras.org, the study found indications of a relationship between company concessions and the placement and deployment of military in Papua taken from a case in the Intan Jaya regency.

In the report four companies in Intan Jaya were identified, namely PT Freeport Indonesia (mining business permit), PT Madinah Qurrata'Ain (mining business permit), PT Nusapati Satria (mining business permit), and PT Kotabara Miratama (mining business permit).

Two out of these four companies, namely PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) and PT Madinah Qurrata'Ain (PTMQ) are gold mining concessions which were identified to have relationships with the military or police, including Pandjaitan.

There are at least three former government officials affiliated with PTMQ, namely retired police general Rudiard Tampubolon, retired TNI (Indonesian military) general Paulus Prananto and Pandjaitan, also a retired TNI general.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Laporan Luhut terhadap Fatia dan Haris Azhar Dinilai Berkebalikan dengan Pernyataan Jokowi".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2021/09/23/18334761/laporan-luhut-terhadap-fatia-dan-haris-azhar-dinilai-berkebalikan-denga