Statement of solidarity with Indonesian journalists and independent media

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Free Press Unlimited is concerned about the recently adopted new articles in the Criminal Code of Indonesia, which pose a threat to press freedom in the country. We stand in solidarity with our close ally, the Association of Journalists in Indonesia (AJI).

The new articles can potentially put foreign and national journalists in jail for years for insulting the president and government institutions. Journalists can also be imprisoned if articles in the press lead to public unrest, protest and/or riots. In spite of the protest, the new Criminal Code was adopted by Indonesia's parliament yesterday. Since Monday, December 5, hundreds of journalists and civil society members in Indonesia have rallied a demonstration asking the authority to postpone the ratification of the Criminal Code.

Executive director Ruth Kronenburg of Free Press Unlimited in her expression of solidarity with AJI expressed her concern about the new legislation: “When press freedom is suppressed, the public is also at a disadvantage because it will be more difficult to get information. This also threatens the public access to information.”

AJI’s chairman, Sasmito made a press statement arguing that the new Criminal Code articles violate principles of human rights law and also contradicts the principle of protecting freedom of expression in relation to criticism of public officials: “The media act as watchdogs criticizing government policies, including the president or his office if they harm public interest or uncover corruption. And critical journalists should not be targeted with criminal penalties as a result.”

AJI has already raised concern over the trends in Indonesia after the revised Information and Electronic Transactions Law in 2016. At least three journalists have been imprisoned and many more caught in legal cases since. Even though Indonesia has ratified the 1999 Press Law to protect journalists, the articles of defamation remain a major threat to the freedom of news gathering and dissemination of information by journalists.

In a joint report to the United Nations in 2020, AJI reported there were at least 104 alerts for cases of violence against journalists in Indonesia. They vary from prosecution, physical violence, forced arrests, lawsuits, to digital attacks.

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. Free Press Unlimited shares these concerns and underlines the calls to action.

Free Press Unlimited also calls upon the Media Freedom Coalition to connect with the Indonesian government to address the situation and ensure new guarantees for media freedom in Indonesia.

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