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Growing fear of speaking out: Survey finds Indonesia's civil liberties under threat

Jakarta Post - October 26, 2020

Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – Civil liberties in the world's third largest democracy are in jeopardy, according to the latest study by pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, amid public concerns over the government's authoritarian posturing in response to criticisms over its policymaking methods in recent months.

The survey, conducted between Sept. 24 to 30 and involving 1,200 people across the country, shows that the majority of respondents, at 79.6 percent, said they felt more afraid to publicly voice their opinions on current issues.

Similarly, 73.8 percent of respondents found it more difficult to hold public rallies and demonstrations, while 57.7 percent believed authorities had used excessive force against people who held political views that diverged from the status quo.

"The more that people believe Indonesia is becoming increasingly undemocratic, the more afraid they are of expressing their opinions," the report says.

It also said that the perceived decline in democracy could be attributed partly to groups that have been critical of the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, including its implementation of a variety of controversial restrictions on community mobility and public behavior over the last six months.

Executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi of Indikator Politik Indonesia said that the survey's findings reflected an alarming condition of the country's democracy, now that people were afraid to voice their opinions.

"Regardless of the quality of their aspirations or whether they speak in support of or in opposition to [the ruling regime], everyone should be given as equal a space [to express their views] as that [given to] pro-government figures in a democracy," Burhanuddin said at a virtual discussion on Sunday.

He also called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to maintain and improve the country's democracy progress during his second term.

"As a reform-era president, [Jokowi] must preserve reformasi's most priceless legacies, namely liberty and democracy," he said as quoted by kompas.com.

The Freedom on the Net 2020 report by US-based nonprofit think tank Freedom House found that crackdowns targeting the government's critics and the increasing prevalence of pro-government propaganda online had severely limited internet freedom in Indonesia.

Mass protests broke out nationwide early this month against the government's hasty and exclusive legislation of the Job Creation Law despite overwhelming public opposition and controversy. The government also received heavy criticism for denying public access to the approved, final draft of the law, which renewed concerns over authoritarianism among its critics.

Furthermore, eight people affiliated with the Save Indonesia Coalition (KAMI) were recently arrested for allegedly spreading hate speech and violating the draconian Electronic Information and Transactions Law during the nationwide protests against the jobs law, sparking concerns over the deteriorating trend of freedom of expression in the country.

Human rights activists have also reported incidences of police brutality against civilians opposing the law during the recent protests, citing these incidences as an example of the government's use of draconian measures to stifle dissent.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/10/26/growing-fear-of-speaking-out-survey-finds-indonesias-civil-liberties-under-threat.htm