TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Three ministerial level officials issued a joint decree about the interpretation of the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law. This is only a makeover that does not touch the substance of the problem.
In Indonesia, if you suffer misfortune because of injustice, you cannt complain on social media or to journalists, yet alone criticize the authorities if your case has not been handled properly. Because injustice is related to the system, it is highly likely that your complaint will involve and offend other people or an institution. If their feelings are hurt, your life might be made difficult because you could face legal proceedings.
Articles 27 and 28 of the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law could wreck your life. This law adopts the punishmnts for slander or defamation from the Criminal Code that in turn originates from Dutch colonial law. Under the ITE Law, you could face criminal proceedings and a six-year jail sentence - which is sufficient grounds for the police to arrest you. And now there are even cyber police which monitor everybody's social media statuses.
Last year, a senior sergeant at the Medan District Military Commad was also disciplined because his wife posted frequent 'negative statuses' on social media. As well as detaining the husband, the Medan military command also used the ITE Law as the basis for complaint to the police.
There is now a list of absurd cases that ended in punishment for complaining on electronic media, from hospital patient Prita Mulyasari to Baiq Nuril, a teacher who recorded rape threats froma school principal. Former student activist Jumhur Hidayat is now in jail as a result of a Twitter posting on October 7, 2020, claiming that the Job Creation Law would give complete freedomto primitive investors, Chinese people, and greedy interpreneurs. According to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, since the ITE law can into force in 2008, at least 3,594 people have been prosecuted for expressing their opinions in public or on electronic media.
Originally, the ITE Law was intended to protect consumers making electronic transactions. Subsequently, the 'catchall' articles 27 and 28, which restrict freedom of expression, appeared. Without clear definition of the limits of slander and defamation, tese two articles are often used to prosecute people. The ITE Law has never been used to protect consumers who have suffered losses through digital transactions.
The endeavor by the communication and informatics minister, the attorney general and the National Police chiefto produce a joint decision letter interpreting articles 27, 28, and 36 does nothing. Proclaimed as a way to prevent misuse of the ITE Law, in fact it does not toufh on the essence of the problem.
Rather than producing an interpretation that can be interpreted again, the government should ask the House of Representatives to revoke the ITE Law, As long as tese articles remain in fromce, the police can use them to prosecute anybody they do not like. This means that the law is nothing more than a tool of the authorities.
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