Tri Indah Oktavianti, Jakarta – The National Police's campaign against alleged fake news about the recently passed omnibus law on job creation has drawn criticism from civil society organizations who say that authorities are trying to "intimidate" critics.
"The police's move to tackle hoaxes is a form of intimidation against the public who widely reject the newly passed Job Creation Law," nongovernmental organizations grouped under the Indonesian People's Faction (FRI) said in a written statement on Friday.
The group called on the police to refrain from hastily labeling public criticism of the law on social media as "hoaxes" and charging anyone who expresses their opposition with criminal acts.
The FRI also questioned how police were able to determine what information about the law was false, given that the final draft of the law has yet to be made available to the public.
"We invite the police to participate in the open debates regarding the Job Creation Law so that the public will be able to know who is spreading hoaxes," the statement said.
The FRI also cited a telegram issued by National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis on Oct. 2, which instructed police to carry out "cyberpatrols" on social media and "media management" to propagate negative sentiments regarding workers' strikes and public protests against the omnibus bill.
"These police actions are an abuse of power," the statement said.
The telegram also drew wide criticism, including from the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) who called on the National Police to repeal the telegram as it was against the basic principles of freedom of expression.
"The telegram shows that the National Police are not carrying out their duties in protecting the public," SAFEnet executive director Damar Juniarto said last week.
"In contrast, the police turn their backs on civil society and follow government orders to protect investors' interests by violating the freedom of those expressing their opposition to the Job Creation Law."
Police have arrested at least one person, a 36-year-old blogger from Makassar, South Sulawesi, for allegedly tweeting false information about the omnibus law. The blogger was later released because of a lack of evidence, one of her lawyers said.
National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Argo Yuwono did not immediately respond to requests for comment.