ARTICLE 19 Submits Brief to Indonesian Constitutional Court on National Security and Freedom of Expression
03 May 2012
On 1 May, ARTICLE 19 submitted a brief to the Constitutional Court of Indonesia on calling on the court to find several sections of the recently adopted Law on State Intelligence violate international free expression and access to information rights and to strike down those provisions.
The new controversial law was adopted in November 2011. It is widely seen by civil society as giving the government new powers to limit speech and restriction freedom of information.
The law takes an extremely overbroad view of national security which includes “national interests” relating to “ideological, political, economic, social, cultural” issues. It creates a new category of “intelligence secrets” which includes information on national resources, national economic security and “memorandum or letters that are by their nature need to be kept secret”, which is so broad as to possible apply to every document held by the Indonesian government. The ARTICLE 19 brief submits that all of these definitions violate international law as set out by the UN Human Rights Committee and other international experts and bodies.
Another major problem with the law is that it applies to all persons, not just officials with a legal obligation to protect secrets. Thus, it subjects journalists, human rights defenders, social media users and others to potentially ten years in jail for disclosing “intelligence secrets” and up to seven years if they “negligently” disclose those secrets, even if they do not know they were secret in the first place. International law requires that secrets laws only apply to those who have the obligation to keep the information confidential because of their employment.
The law also provides no protection of whistle-blowers, journalists and others who reveal corruption, human rights abuses, abuses of power and other important issues of public interest. Any disclosure of intelligence secrets is considered a major crime no matter what it reveals or even if there is no harm from the disclosure. The secrets are to be classified for 25 years with no procedures for release.
Finally the law also allows intelligence officials to conduct wiretapping in cases relating to “socio-culture”, “ideology” and “politics” issues and fails to set up an adequate mechanism for authorization. The brief argues that these provisions violates internationally-respected privacy rights, as well as chilling persons speech.
In January 2012, media and civil society groups filed a challenge at the Constitutional Court arguing that it violated the national Constitution. ARTICLE 19’s brief is intended to support their efforts by showing the failure of the law to meet international standards which have been agreed to by the Indonesian Government.
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