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Indonesia: New criminal code erodes freedom of press, expression

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Statement - December 8, 2022

The Indonesian government has passed a controversial new Criminal Code that seriously violates international human rights standards and will effectively curtail freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia and SINDIKASI, in urging the Indonesian parliament to revoke the code and remove or amend all articles that threaten press freedom.

On December 6, the Indonesian parliament unanimously passed a new Criminal Code (RKUHP) replacing the framework in use since Indonesia's independence from the Dutch Empire in 1946. The new legislation, which applies to both Indonesian citizens and foreigners, restores a ban on insulting state institutions, Indonesia's heads of state or Pancasila, the national ideology, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

The code also includes provisions regulating the recording of court activities, strengthens blasphemy and defamation laws, and criminalises the spreading of 'hoaxes'. Other articles restrict the rights of women, LGBTQIA+ people, and religious minorities, and outlaw consensual sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

Press freedom and human rights organisations have condemned the code as violating international human rights law and standards and citing serious concerns for freedom of expression in Indonesia.

AJI Indonesia has led nationwide demonstrations across Indonesia's major cities and identified 17 problematic articles which may limit critical journalism and freedom of expression. The Indonesian Press Council has also criticised the code, stating that the new legislation is contrary to Indonesian Press Law and fundamental human rights.

Once signed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the transition to the new code will take a maximum of three years.

AJI said: "We strongly condemn the Indonesian parliament and President Joko Widodo that passed the revision of the Criminal Code (RKUHP) on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. The law is the most serious legal threat to freedom of expression and press, two fundamental aspects of democracy."

SINDIKASI said: "SINDIKASI strongly rejects the newly passed criminal code as the content is only a setback to authoritarianism and obstruction of freedom of press and expression. SINDIKASI calls for the labour and other social movements to unite in protesting the criminal law. We demanded the government and parliament to revise the law by dropping the controversial laws to restore freedom of speech and democracy."

IFJ said: "The passing of Indonesia's new criminal code is deeply problematic and contravenes fundamental human rights standards, directly threatening independent and critical journalism. The IFJ urges the Indonesian parliament to revoke the code and immediately remove or amend all articles that threaten freedom of expression and freedom of the press."

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

Source: https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-freedom/article/indonesia-new-criminal-code-erodes-freedom-of-press-expression.htm