Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition has revealed attempts to criminalise residents and attacks on journalists ahead of the 2023 ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
Coalition representative Anno Susabun from the Labuan Bajo based non-government organisation Sunspirit said that four Labuan Bajo residents suddenly received letters from the West Manggarai district police (Polres) summoning them to be questioned on charges of incitement that was to occur on May 9 or on the first day of the ASEAN Summit.
"On May 6 and 7, four residents from Labuan Bajo suddenly received a letter from the West Manggarai Polres", said Susabun in a written statement on Tuesday May 9.
Susabun believes that the attempt to bring in the residents was done so that they would not hold a protest action at the summit. This is because the letter from the police was sent after residents submitted a letter of notification with police on May 5.
The residents planned to demand compensation for their land and homes after being evicted to make way for a road project from Labuan Bajo to Golo Mori, one of the locations of the ASEAN Summit. The protest action was to be held to coincide with the first day of the summit.
"We believe that the attempt to bring the four residents in on charges of incitement is related to a remark conveyed by the NTT regional police chief, that they should not hold the protest action", said Susabun.
"The charges of incitement against the four residents are completely fabricated, were pushed through and represent a form of criminalisation. This represents an attempt to obstruct freedom of assembly and expression", he continued.
The Coalition views this as an attempt to curb the right to freedom of assembly and expression that should be respected and is protected under the 1945 Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (DUHAM), the human rights law, Law Number 9/1998 on the freedom to express an opinion in public and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
Yet, said Susabun, according to Article 13 Paragraphs (2) and (3) of Law Number 9/1998, the police have an obligation to provide protection and security for those expressing an opinion in public, not instead obstructing them.
Coalition representative Erick Tanjung from the Indonesian Independent Alliance of Journalists (AJI) said that a journalist from the local independent media Floresa was allegedly subject to a digital attack after publishing an article related to the compensation sought by the Labuan Bajo residents.
Tanjung said that the journalist was contacted by an intelligence officer from the TNI (Indonesian military) who took issue with the article published by the journalist.
On May 6 at 11.25 am local time, the journalist also received a notification from the Telegram app on their cell phone saying that another person had logged into their account.
"In the notification, they were asked to setup a two-stage verification. Yet they had already activated a two-stage verification on their account previously", said Tanjung.
At 5.49 pm local time, said Tanjung, the journalist received another phone call but they did not answer. At 7.50 pm the journalist suddenly received the following notification from WhatsApp: "Your number is no longer registered with WhatsApp on this phone. Perhaps because you have registered on another phone".
When they tried to follow up the verification request, the journalist never received the six digit code that had to be entered, despite trying repeatedly.
"Following this, the account suddenly changed into a business account, from previously being a personal account", said Tanjung.
On May 7 at 8.17 am, Floresa received a notification that there was malware on their website. After carrying out a check, the website was declared "sitehacked" and they were asked to immediately take measures to deal with it.
"Currently the problem has been dealt with and the website has returned to normal", he said.
Tanjung said that the Coalition is asking all parties to respect press freedom and the freedom of expression. If there are parties that object to a piece of journalistic work, they can send a right to reply to the media concerned.
"Or it can be reported to the Press Council. This is regulated under Article 1, Article 5, Article 11 and Article 15 of Law Number 40/1999 on the Press", he said.
The Coalition is made up of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), Sunspirit-Labuan Bajo, the Franciscans Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Ordo Fratrum Minorum (JPIC-OFM), Walhi NTT, AJI Indonesia and Floresa.
CNN Indonesia has contacted NTT regional police public relations division head Senior Commissioner Ariasandy and West Manggarai district police public relations section head First Police Inspector Eka Dharma Yudha for confirmation and to ask for their explanation on the matter, but as of this article going to print neither have provided a response.
The 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo is scheduled to be held on May 9-11. Labuan Bajo residents have carried out frequent protest because compensation for the land for the road construction has still not been paid. (yla/dal)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi: Ada Kriminalisasi Warga & Serangan Pers Jelang KTT ASEAN 2023".]