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Journalist association rejects Criminal Code, highlights threat to press freedom

Liputan 6 - August 21, 2022

Huyogo Simbolon, Bandung – The Bandung branch of the Independent Journalists Association (AJI) believes that there are still a number of catch all articles in the latest version of the Draft Criminal Code (RKUHP). These controversial articles have the potential to return Indonesia to the colonial era or the era of authoritarianism which curbed press freedom.

This was conveyed by the AJI Bandung during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the organisation, which was marked by a demonstration titled "A Joint Forum Defending Freedom of Expression", in front of the West Java governor's office in Bandung on Saturday August 20.

The AJI Bandung invited a number of civil society and campus organisations to attend the joint forum, which began at 2 pm, including student press groups (Persma) from several Bandung campuses, which are part of the Bandung Student Press communication Forum (FKPMB), the Bandung Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), residents evicted Tamansari development project (Tamansari Resists), the West Java Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), Inaba University students and pantomime artist Wanggi Hoed.

"The discourse on enacting the problematic RKUHP is a threat to citizen's freedom of expression. Not just journalists, anyone could fall victim to it", said AJI Bandung Advocacy Division Coordinator Ahmad Fauzan in a speech.

"It is time for us to unite and campaign for the defense of freedom of expression which is [one of] the most fundamental human rights", said Fauzan.

The joint forum urged the House of Representatives (DPR) and the government to remove 19 problematic articles from the July 4 version of the RKUHP, not to rush the enactment of the draft law and to accommodate input from the public.

In a speech, AJI Bandung Chairperson Tri Joko Her Riadi stated that the press has an important role in democratic life because the press shoulders the responsibility of monitoring the government's performance. Including exposing its violations. If press freedom is threatened, the public's right to obtain information is also threatened.

"The press must work under the protection of freedom of the press and expression. The law must guarantee this. With this guarantee, we can work to create reports which are extensive, in-depth and powerful. Also conduct investigations which uncover government mistakes", said Riadi.

Under the RKUHP, the press will be regulated through criminal offices rather than under the Press Law. This will make journalists extremely vulnerable to being criminalised, which will mostly harm the public themselves because information from the press will be restricted.

The rally also opened the free speech forum to action participants, including a pantomime by Wanggi Hoed who depicted the threat to press freedom by the RKUHP. This was followed by a theatrical performance by Bandung Indonesian Arts and Culture Institute (ISBI) students and other contributions.

The FKPMB meanwhile highlighted demands for press freedom in academia, the resolution of sexual violence crimes and guarantees of press freedom for Persma. This was reflected in the posters which they brought with messages such as "Persma is not campus public relations", and "Persma is not a photographer".

At the end of the action, all of the participants declared a joint position based on the results of an AJI study into the 19 problematic articles in the RKUHP which threaten press freedom.

The 19 articles which were citied are:

  • Article 188 which regulates the crime of spreading or developing communist, Marxist and Leninist ideas.
  • Article 218, Article 219 and Article 220 which regulates the crime of attacking the respect or values and dignity of the president and vice president.
  • Article 240 and Article 241 which regulates the crime of insulting the government.
  • Article 263 which regulates the crime of broadcasting or disseminating fake news or information.
  • Article 264 which regulates the crimes by individuals who broadcast news which is uncertain, excessive or incomplete.
  • Article 280 which regulates disturbing or disrupting court proceedings.
  • Article 302, Article 303 and Article 304 on crimes against religion and belief.
  • Article 351 and Article 352 which regulates insulting public officials and state institutions.
  • Article 440 which regulates minor cases of defamation.
  • Article 437 which regulates the crime of slander.
  • Article 443 which regulates the crime of slandering a dead person.
  • Article 598 and Article 599 which regulates crimes related to publishing and printing.

Weakening press freedom is weakening work done in the public interest and those who will be most harmed are of course the broader public.

Based on this, the AJI Bandung is:

1. Urging the DPR and the government to revoke the 19 problematic articles from the July 4 version of the draft RKUHP.
2. Urging the DPR and the government not to rush the ratification of the RKUHP.
3. Urging the DPR and the government to listen to and accommodate input from the public.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "AJI Bandung Tolak RKUHP, Soroti 19 Pasal Pengancam Kebebasan Pers".]

Source: https://www.liputan6.com/news/read/5047425/aji-bandung-tolak-rkuhp-soroti-19-pasal-pengancam-kebebasan-per