Media Laws in Indonesia: What They Give and What They Take

Freedom of press is the basic right for people just as a freedom of speech is. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserted “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Indonesia has The Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD) 1945, the foundation of the state, Article 28 cites about the freedom of speech. Article 28F: “Every person shall have the right to communicate and to obtain information for the purpose of the development of his/her self and social environment, and shall have the right to seek, obtain, possess, store, process and convey information by employing all available types of channels.”

Article 28F above is an amendment. Prior to the article, for more than four decades Indonesia lived under dictatorship. Government or authority controlled and scrutinized media. The biggest case was the shutting down of DeTik, Tempo, Editor on June 21th, 1994.

In 1999, Habibie as a successor to president Soeharto released Press Law No.40/1999 that guarantees freedom of press. Since then, press grows rapidly, hundreds of new media sprouted and joined the game.

However, the freedom of press is restrained by another law—where journalists are equal to all citizen in the eye of justice/law. This dilemma is seen at one of the latest case in Indonesia in 2010, when Raymond Teddy sued seven news institutions: Kompas; Warta Kota; Suara Pembaruan; Republika; RCTI; Seputar Indonesia; and DetikCom. Teddy objected the news publication done by these news institutions where he is being called as a bookmaker.

The gambling syndicate at Hotel Sultan was taken down in October 24th, 2008. During the raid, police secure proofs such as: four decks of cards, two whiteboards, 11 cardboard case of cards, cash of Rp.91.000.000, seven gold rings, three necklaces, four pair of earrings and seven deposit slips of Bank Central Asia. Police detained 16 people, including Teddy, later arrested and treated as suspect. For two years, this case was not solved.

Prior to Teddy case, in February 2006, Supreme Court granted a win “not-guilty” to Chief Editor Tempo magazine Bambang Harymurti related to the case of libel on a businessman Tomy Winata. While before that, Harymurti was charged one year sentence by High Court.

This case started from news publication in Weekly News Tempo “Ada Tomy di Tenabang”, 3rd – 9th March 2003 edition. The article tied Tomy Winata to the fire happened there and then rebuild of Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta. Feeling wronged, Winata, the owner of Artha Graha, filed charge at Tempo.

From the case mentioned, it reflects that law seems to provide a guarantee, at the same time, it is not a shield to insure that the work of journalism is one without challenge.

There are laws in Indonesia that can possibly work against freedom of press:

  • Criminal Codes, Article 12 and Article 13, leaking on government secret, is to serve 7 years and 4 years sentence, respectively.
  • Criminal Codes Article 143, about insult/defamation on representatives of foreign countries who are on duty in Indonesia is to face a serving time of maximum 5 years sentence.
  • Criminal Codes Article 154, whoever claim their hatred and mockery to government is to face a serving time of maximum 7 years sentence.
  • Criminal Codes, Chapter XVI Articles 310-321 about dissemination or libel, is to face serving time of 4 months to 4 years sentence.
  • Law No. 11/ 2008 (UU ITE), Article 27 and Article 28, anyone who deliberately and without rights, distribute and/or transmit and/or make available an access to electronic documents containing libel is to face jail time.
  • Law No. 17/2011 on Intelligent, on the leak of intelligent information.
  • Law No. 19/ 2002 on copyrights.

All of these law carries threat to freedom of press (Press Law No.40/1999, Article 4 (3) guarantees the freedom of the press and its right to search, collect, and publish views and information. Which stipulated two years imprisonment and/or a fine of a maximum of 500 million Rupiah for anyone who preventing the press from looking for and disseminating information). These laws hinder journalism work when covering investigation to meet public’s need, in compliance to Article No.14/2008 – information should be made available to public.

Press Law No.40/1999 only regulates the right of press to search, to develop, and to disseminate information, but it does not regulate or command the obligation by sources, especially government officials to provide public information to journalists. In addition, the right of press to function as information provider to public is constantly being challenged by articles mentioned above.


About taufanwijaya

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