We, the undersigned organisations forming the Global Coalition, issue an urgent plea to the Indonesian government to stand resolutely with its people and uphold the principles of freedom of expression by urgently revising the Electronic Information and Transactions Law (ITE Law). This law, known for stifling freedom of expression and suppressing human rights defenders, requires immediate attention and rectification.
While recognising the Indonesian government’s commendable effort to revise the ITE Law, we assertively call upon the Indonesian House of Representatives and the government to redress several problematic articles within the second draft amendment. These articles, including but not limited to those concerning defamation, hate speech, and false news, have systematically hindered the fundamental right to freedom of expression and have silenced advocates for human rights.
Enacted in 2008 under Law Number 11, during the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the ITE Law aimed to address the evolving legal landscape in Indonesia’s digital sphere. Intended to protect individual rights in online spaces, electronic transactions, consumer affairs, intellectual property rights, and unfair business practices, the law’s punitive measures were designed to be the ultimum remedium, the last resort in a rule-of-law country like Indonesia.
Despite subsequent updates in 2016 under President Joko Widodo, the draconian elements of the ITE Law persist untouched. Articles related to defamation and hate speech have been routinely exploited by state actors to silence critics, leading to a climate of self-censorship and a decline in freedom of expression, evident in the chilling effects experienced by journalists, women, and human rights defenders.
The recent case of human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar underscores the critical need for reform. Their criminalization with defamation charges, reported by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, resulting in sue of 3.5 and 4 years in prison, exemplifies the oppressive impact of the ITE Law on legitimate expressions of criticism.
Our concern deepens as the ongoing revision process occurs behind closed doors, offering minimal public oversight. This lack of transparency poses a severe risk, potentially resulting in regulations that prioritise elite interests over the protection of human rights. The accelerated discussions by the Working Committee of Commission 1 of the Indonesian House of Representatives, in collaboration with the administration of President Joko Widodo, demand immediate reconsideration.
Despite engagements with key government figures, including the Minister of Communication and Informatics and the Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights, the revised draft of the ITE Law dated 12 July, 2023 demonstrates a regrettable lack of improvement and a failure to harmonise with the new Criminal Code, retaining contentious articles on hate speech and defamation.
We firmly assert that the best outcome will not be achieved if the Indonesian government continues its current hasty and reckless trajectory. We urgently call for adherence to the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) Principle and the integration of a ‘meaningful and worthwhile participation’ approach in the second revision of the ITE Law.
Furthermore, we implore the Indonesian government not to repeat past mistakes that have unjustly criminalised countless innocent citizens. This is an opportune moment for the Indonesian government to rectify its lowest standing in the Freedom of Expression Index and establish a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Therefore, the Global Coalition, comprising diverse civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), unreservedly demands the Indonesian Government to:
Hold the final draft process of the Second Amendment to the ITE Law to comply with international human rights principles, ensuring thorough discussions to eliminate the potential for human rights violations.
Urge the Indonesian House of Representatives and President Joko Widodo’s Administration to ensure public aspirations are considered by opening the discussion process for the second revision of the ITE Law in a transparent manner, providing the public with comprehensive information.
Reject the reckless and hasty practices of the Indonesian House of Representatives and the Administration of President Joko Widodo, which neglects democratic principles and risks the introduction of malicious legislation in the ITE Law revision.
H.E. President Joko Widodo, President of Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, Vice President of Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Madam Speaker Puan Maharani, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Madam Representative Meutya Hafid, Head of Commission I of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Minister Mahfud MD, Coordinating Minister of Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Minister Ari Budi Setiadi, Minister of Communication and Information Technology of the Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Vice Minister Nezar Patria, Vice Communication and Information Technology of the Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Minister Yasonna Hamonangan Laoly, Minister of Laws and Human Rights of Republic of Indonesia;
H.E. Vice Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, Vice Minister of Laws and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia, and
All Members of Parliament in the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia