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Pursuit and arrest of socially critical artists will deter public criticism: Amnesty

Kompas.com - August 20, 2021

Achmad Nasrudin Yahya, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia is concerned that the public will become even more reluctant to express an opinion after police acted excessively by hunting down and arresting a person who painted a mural critical of the government.

According to Amnesty International Deputy Director Wirya Adiwena, even though the street artist was not charged, the police's actions in arresting and forcing them to apologise will have a deterrent effect on society.

"Creating a deterrent effect which will make people reluctant to express critical views", said Adiwena in a press release on Friday August 20.

Adiwena said that the police's actions in response to the mural will in fact further erode space for freedom of expression in Indonesia.

In addition to this, Adiwena emphasised that the murals "404: Not Found" and "Forced to be healthy in a sick country" are works which are a form of freedom of expression and opinion.

Freedom of expression and opinion meanwhile is protected under international human rights laws as well as the Indonesian constitution.

"The excessive actions of police and other state officials, including by hunting down the artists, clearly threatens the right to freedom of expression and opinion", he asserted.

Aside from this, Adiwena also highlighted a speech by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in which he said that criticism of the government is an important part of the nation's life.

This was conveyed by Widodo when he gave his state of the nation address at the annual session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) at the parliamentary building in Jakarta on Monday August 16.

In the implementation of this speech, he said, the president and government officials must ensure that law enforcement officials in the field also properly understand this. "If not, then this statement is little more than lip service", he said.

As has been reported, a mural depicting President Widodo with the writing "Jokowi 404: Not Found" in Batuceper, Tangerang, Banten, has caused a public uproar.

And a man in Tuban, East Java, who intended to sell T-shirts with a picture of the mural resembling Widodo was even arrested and questioned by police.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Tindakan Polisi Cari Pembuat Mural Dikhawatirkan Bikin Publik Enggan Berpendapat".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2021/08/20/19503991/tindakan-polisi-cari-pembuat-mural-dikhawatirkan-bikin-publik-engga