AJI Urges Government to Lift Social Media Restrictions

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Mahinda Arkiyasa

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian government has restricted the use of social media to stop the widespread sharing of manipulated videos and pictures following the violent post-election riots that started from Tuesday night, May 21, and continued till yesterday evening. The riots erupted in several spots in Jakarta, concentrated in Thamrin area, Central Jakarta and Slipi, West Jakarta.
     
    The rally initially was meant to protest President Joko Widodo-Ma'ruf Amin's official victory against Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno as announced by the General Elections Commission (KPU) early Tuesday morning, before turning violent.
     
    Jokowi-Ma'aruf polled 85 million votes or 55.5% of the total ballots cast, against Prabowo-Sandiaga with 68 million votes or 44.5%.
     
    Indonesian Chief Security Minister Wiranto then held a press conference at his office on Medan Merdeka Barat street, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday, May 22, and announced several security measures including a temporary crackdown on social media.
     
    Wiranto cited the Bill of Act on Electronic Information and Transaction (UU ITE/Law No 11/2008) as the legal basis for the government to enforce the restrictions. He didn't mention any specific social media platform. 
     
    According to Wiranto, the temporary restriction was necessary to stop the spread of false news on social media, that could incite further violence. 
     
    No clear indication has been given on how long the crackdown will be enforced. The minister only said "it could last 2-3 days". The final decisions appears to depend on the country's security situation.
     
    To respond the government's decision, the Alliance of Independent Journalists issues the following statements:
     
    1. We call on the government to lift the restriction of social media access immediately. We believe the decision is not in line with article 28 F of the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia 1945 which guarantees the citizens' freedom to communicate and obtain information. The restriction is also against Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration which states that everyone has the right to seek as well as receive and impart information and ideas through any media.
    2. We demand the government to respect public's rights to receive information. While we understand the government's intention to stop the distribution of false information and protect the public during violent protests, the decision has also inadvertently restricted public's access to factual information.
    3. We urge all the parties to be more responsible when they exercise their rights and  freedom of expression. We disagree with disinformation campaign, provocative actions and hate speeches on social media, because it can trigger more violence and further polarized the country. It can also put public at risk and hamper democracy.
    4. Therefore, we ask the government to engage with social media providers so they can be actively involved in stopping the spread of false information and hate speeches through transparent mechanism with a stronger legal basis.
     
    Jakarta, May 23 2019
     
    Chairman of AJI Indonesia, Abdul Manan
     
    Head of Advocacy Division of AJI Indonesia, Sasmito Madrim