M Rosseno Aji, Jakarta – The University of Indonesia Students Executive Board (BEM UI) criticized the latest penal code law draft bill (RKUHP), which oversees public demonstrations, and argued that it would restrict freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
"The act of holding a demonstration is a public interest," said BEM UI chairperson Bayu Satria Utomo on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in an online discussion.
Bayu argued that even without the threat of criminal offenses imposed on demonstrators under the penal code law draft bill, students often find it difficult to even run a demonstration. Bayu claimed that students often find it difficult to have police approve students' requests to hold a demonstration.
Arrests against protesters are still far too familiar amidst the current rules, he said, let alone if the RKUHP is passed. "For us who are in the field, that makes us very vulnerable," said Bayu.
Article 273 of the penal code law draft bill states that any person that conducts demonstrations or parades in public areas or streets without a notice, which resulted in hampering public interests can face up to one year of imprisonment.
Meanwhile, in Law No. 9 of 1998 concerning Freedom of Expressing Opinions in Public, those who hold demonstrations without notification are only given administrative sanctions in the form of disbandment.