Pacific Scoop

Jokowi backs return of defamation law for ‘insulting’ Indonesian president

Presiden Joko Widodo (keempat kanan) dan Wapres Jusuf Kalla (ketiga kanan) melakukan pertemuan konsultasi dengan Ketua MPR Zulkifli Hasan (keempat kiri), Ketua DPR Setya Novanto (kedua kanan), Ketua DPD Irman Gusman (ketiga kiri), Ketua Mahkamah Konstitusi Arief Hidayat (kedua kiri), Ketua Komisi Yudisial Suparman Marzuki (kiri) dan Ketua BPK Harry Azhar Aziz (kanan) di Istana Bogor, Jawa Barat, Rabu (5/8). Pertemuan konsultasi tersebut membahas sejumlah agenda diantaranya pidato kenegaraan Presiden di Sidang Tahunan MPR/DPR/DPD dan pilkada serentak. ANTARA FOTO/Widodo S. Jusuf/foc/15.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (fourth from right) meeting with People’s Consultative Assembly representatives at the Bogor Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Wednesday. Image: The Jakarta Post

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Ina Parlina and Arya Dipa in Jakarta

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says he supports the Indonesian government’s proposal to reinstate insulting the president as a criminal offence, although he has added that he is personally not a big fan of the idea.

The government is seeking to re-introduce criminal charges for insulting the president in the draft of a Criminal Code (KUHP) amendment, a provision that had been annulled by the Constitutional Court.

“It is still a draft, so why the fuss? I have said I have been mocked and scorned since I was a [Surakarta] mayor, a [Jakarta] governor and now President. I am used to it,” Jokowi told reporters at the State Palace late last week.

The proposed law has been widely condemned as undermining freedom of expression. Thousands have denounced the “authoritarian-era” draft law on social media.

Jokowi also reminded those concerned that the idea to restore the provisions had actually been proposed by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration in 2012, but the deliberation had been delayed.

The Constitutional Court scrapped three articles on insulting the president from the KUHP in 2006, but a person can still be charged for defamation if someone files a report against that person, as stipulated in articles 310 and 311.

The most recent case involved South Jakarta District Court judge Sarpin Rizaldi, who sued Judicial Commission (KY) members Suparman Marzuki and Taufiqurrohman Syahuri for publicly criticising his controversial verdict on the pretrial hearing of Commander General Budi Gunawan.

Reported to police
Sarpin reported the two KY commissioners to the police after both said that Sarpin had acted beyond his authority to clear Budi of criminal allegations. The KUHP amendment is a legislative priority for the House of Representatives for this year.

Article 263 paragraph 1 of the draft bill says that a person might face a maximum of five years’ imprisonment for insulting the president or the vice-president.

In addition, the article also stipulates that a criminal charge is not applicable for criticism or self-defence.

The proposed article 264 stipulates that a person who distributes or displays writing or imagery defaming the president in public may also face a five-year term of imprisonment.

In the 2006 ruling, the Constitutional Court almost unanimously ruled that the three articles in the KUHP — articles 134, 136 and 137 — undermined the right to freedom of speech mandated by the Constitution and caused uncertainty, as those articles were subject to multiple interpretations.

At that time, the court’s ruling, which was made in favor of lawyer Eggi Sudjana and activist Pandapotan Lubis who were facing charges for slandering Yudhoyono and his aides, was applauded by human rights and political activists.

The KUHP, which also ruled that burning pictures of the president and vice president and mocking them in public were insults and the violators were subject to a maximum of six years’ imprisonment, was often used by former President Soeharto to silence critics during his 30 years in power.

Left to House
Jokowi said that he would leave it up to the House to reject the provisions.

Separately, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly defended the plan, saying that charges for those insulting the president would ensure equality before the law, arguing that the president, as the head of state, needed to be protected.

“It’s unfair and discriminatory if we [common people] can sue [someone for defamation], but the president is excluded,” Yasonna said in Bandung, West Java, on Wednesday.

Yasonna also questioned why the plan had only now sparked criticism despite the provisions that were already proposed by the previous administration.

Human rights activist Wahyudi Djafar, who is also a researcher with the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), criticized the plan, saying that it would be a setback for democracy. “Re-introducing the provisions is against the spirit of the reform of the Criminal Code that aims to move on from the legacy of colonialism,” he said, adding that the scrapped articles aimed to protect a king or a head of state, not a president or a head of government.

“The lèse-majesté provisions are not in line with today’s democratic system given that those articles curb freedom of speech, particularly criticism of the government,” he added.

Source: Pacific Media Watch 9379