Indonesia: Newly Criminal Code the Most Serious Threats to Journalists


We strongly condemn the Indonesian parliament and President Joko Widodo that passed the revision of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. The law is the most serious legal threat for freedom of expression and press, two fundamental aspects of democracy.

Since Monday, December 5, hundreds of journalists and civil society members rallied a demonstration asking the authority to postpone the ratification of the Criminal Code. But Parliament members refused to listen on public and journalist criticism.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has identified the newly Criminal Code as containing 17 problematic that could put national and foreign journalists and citizens in prison for insulting the president/vice president, other state bodies, and courts, and several years imprisonment for defamation. Besides, journalists can also be imprisonedwith rubber articles regarding incomplete reports and fake news which lead to riots.

This article violates the principles of human rights law, in particular with regard to the Siracusa Principles regarding legitimate restrictions, also contradicts the principle of protecting freedom of expression in relation to criticism of public officials.

AJI’s chairman, Sasmito said that the new Criminal Code would target critical journalists with criminal penalties. The media act as watchdogs usually criticizing government policies or the president/vice president, and uncovering crimes or corruption.

“When press freedom is suppressed, the public is also at a disadvantage because it will be difficult to get information. So this is not about journalists’ right, but also threat public’ right.”

Even though Indonesia has ratified the 1999 Press Law to protect journalists, the articles of defamation remain a major threat. In the last two years, at least three journalists have been imprisoned and many more caught in legal cases under the Information and Electronic Transactions Law, which was issued in 2008, then revised in 2016.

AJI urges the government and the parliament to decriminalize the works of journalists in serving the public. The government must also respect the Press Law as a special mechanism in solving any news case.

Jakarta, August 07Dec, 2022

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