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Journalists association says broadcasting law revisions threaten press freedom

CNN Indonesia - April 25, 2024

Jakarta – The Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has rejected revisions to the Broadcasting Law because they believe they threaten press freedom.

"AJI rejects them, yes. The articles actually have a lot of problems. So if it's forced through it will cause problems. There are several articles that we think threaten press freedom", said AJI National Director Bayu Wardhana during a press conference at the AJI secretariat in Jakarta on Wednesday April 24.

Wardhana also believes that the process of drafting the revisions to the law were closed and did not involve community participation. AJI, said Wardhana, only found out about the draft revisions around two weeks before the Idul Fitri holidays in April, yet the revised draft was dated October 2, 2023.

He asserted that the revised draft was not even published on the official House of Representatives (DPR) website.

Wardhana is of the view that the process of drafting the revisions to the Broadcasting Law is similar to the Omnibus Law on Job Creation (Cipta Kerja), the new National Capital City (IKN) Law and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law, all of which were done secretly then taken to a House plenary meeting.

Therefore, Wardhana is also pushing for the revision process to be transparent and open to the public, or at a minimum the draft be displayed on the official DPR website so that it can be accessed by the public.

In addition to this, Wardhana also highlighted the DPR's current term, which is due to end in only a few months. Therefore, he believes that the revisions to the law must be discussed more deeply in the next period.

There are a number of articles in the draft revision of the law that were highlighted by Wardhana, including Article 56 paragraph (2) which contains a prohibition on the exclusive presentation of investigative journalism. This is considered to threaten press freedom.

Wardhana suspects that this is an attempt by the DPR, as the party who took the initiative to revise the law, so that there is no exclusive presentation of journalistic investigations.

"This article is confusing. Why is there a prohibition on the exclusive presentation of investigative journalism? This implies limits so that that journalistic investigative work is not allowed to be aired in broadcasting. An effort to silence the press that is very real", explained Wardhana.

In addition, Wardhana also touched on the expansion of authority related to the handling of journalistic disputes that will be given to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI).

According to Wardhana, this could cause overlapping authority because up until now, journalistic products are regulated and supervised by the Press Council as stated in the Press Law.

"In Article 25 Paragraph (1) Letter Q it states that only the KPI has the authority to handle journalistic disputes. Whereas up until now cases of journalistic disputes in broadcasting have always been handled by the Press Council. The draft Broadcasting Bill has the aim of taking over the Press Council's authority and will make journalistic disputes complicated", said Wardhana.

"This is an effort to undermine press freedom", he added.

Wardhana is of the view that journalistic disputes must continue to be handled by the Press Council as has been the case up until now.

In addition to this, Wardhana also highlighted Article 50 Paragraph (2) which reads, "The KPI shall compile, establish, publish and socialise Broadcasting Behaviour Guidelines (P3) for broadcasting institutions, broadcasting digital platform organisers and the general public after first consulting with the DPR".

Wardhana believes that the KPI will not be independent because it has to consult first with the DPR when drafting rules.

"Yet it's a state commission, yes, when it is chosen, it just does its job, why should have to consult with the DPR. This is like its tail being held on to, yes. Later it will be all politicised again", he said.

As a follow up, AJI plans to invite the DPR's Commission I to discuss the revisions to the Broadcasting Law.

"We want, maybe the most immediate plan, is to invite Commission I to discuss it. We will hold a discussion, actually this is how, the way we're thinking and so on, while maybe an audience can be held", said Wardhana.

Not only that, Wardhana hopes that the Press Council will speak out regarding press freedom in the revisions to the law. (pop/pua)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "AJI Tolak Revisi UU Penyiaran: Mengancam Kebebasan Pers".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20240425035814-20-1090188/aji-tolak-revisi-uu-penyiaran-mengancam-kebebasan-per