Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo denied that freedom of speech in the country is somewhat restricted under his rule and used his own experience to describe how the actual situation is indeed "very liberal" as he responded to a question from media personality Karni Ilyas.
Jokowi posted the clip of the interview on his Instagram account on Tuesday.
Karni, the chief editor of news broadcaster TV One which is known as a strong critic of the Jokowi government primarily during his first presidential term, said there are "a lot of people among the communities and many surveys" who suggest that Indonesia is still lacking freedom of speech.
"What do you mean by less freedom? We hear people make derogatory remarks against the president, people insult the president on a daily basis. We hear everyday people chant 'stupid president'," Jokowi replied and smiled.
"What else do we want? [The Indonesian] democracy is already very, very liberal in my opinion despite the fact that we belong to the Eastern World known for its politeness, good manner, and civilized culture. Mr. Karni, don't you see it yourself?" the president said.
"I need to hear directly from you," replied Karni, who is famous for his talk show "Indonesia Lawyers' Club" which many of Jokowi's supporters allege as the megaphone for the opposing camp.
It's not uncommon to hear critics such as Rocky Gerung call Jokowi a "foolish president" during the show on TV One.
Jokowi also told the veteran journalist that when people are angered by insults and file defamation lawsuits, he as the president cannot intervene in the judiciary system.
Karni threw another question about Jokowi's stance on the calls for him to run for a third term, which is against the constitution and the fact that the president himself has repeatedly underlined he has no interest to do so.
"I have answered such a question several times. Mr. Karni, why do you ask me that question again?" Jokowi replied.
"That's not exactly what my question is about, but your supporters keep campaigning for an extended term or even a third term ...," Karni said.
"In my opinion, nothing is wrong with that. Besides, it's part of democracy and ideas. We allow people to say 'Jokowi step down!' or 'replace the president!' So, why should we keep people from having another idea?" Jokowi said.
The lengthy interview also discusses the economy, the planned relocation of the national capital, Indonesia's presidency of the G-20, and a high-profile murder case that sees a police general as the key suspect.
But it's the topic of democracy and freedom of speech that was posted on the president's Instagram account.