ELSAM Continues to Strengthen Academic Networks for Freedom of Expression

ELSAM, Yogyakarta – In response to the many cases having a dimension of freedom of expression, particularly related to the massive use of Internet technology, which is now becoming one of the major medium in exchanging information, ELSAM has initiated the formation of a network of academics for freedom of expression in Indonesia. This network initially consists of academics from the Andalas University (Padang), Indonesia University (Depok), Padjadjaran University (Bandung), Gadjah Mada University (Yogyakarta), Airlangga University (Surabaya), and also the Press Council.

As reported earlier, the formation of this network is expected to help disseminate knowledge to the public and to better understand the intricacies of protection and restriction on freedom of expression. In the context of advocacy, the academics are expected to be actively involved in policy advocacy, and defend the cases with a dimension of freedom of expression. As noted by ELSAM, recently criminalization of legitimate expression, through reporting someone’s opinion as a crime, continues to rise. In the period of January to September 2015, ELSAM noted there are at least 22 criminals reporting over expression of persons, accusing them of defamation.

The ambiguity of the formulation of Article 27 Paragraph (3) of Law No. 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE), with a penalty of more than five years in prison, gives the opportunity to prosecute a person because of his/her opinion. Generalization to the crime of defamation in this provision, without any specification as regulated in the Criminal Code, has given rise to many problems in its application. It is therefore essential to ensure immediate change on the criminal provisions in the ITE Law, in order to prevent the chilling effect of the number of cases of criminalization, towards the enjoyment of freedom of expression and opinion.

Related to these needs, academics who have a strategic position to influence policy makers, are expected to be a main pillar to ensure changes that are consistent with the protection of freedom of expression. With these arguments mentioned above, the efforts to develop the network of academics gain importance. Academics are mandated by the Three Responsibilities (Tridharma) to carry out teaching, research, and community service; the network serves well to achieve elements of these.

In an effort to strengthen this network, ELSAM and the academics are doing literature research in order to compile an anthology on freedom of expression and privacy. This book will contain various writings about law, dynamics, and current challenges to freedom of expression, including policy recommendations that are consistent with human rights. In the near future, in December 2015, in collaboration with the Faculty of Law, Airlangga University, the network will also be actively involved in the freedom and constitutionalism academic meeting. Additionally, in the workshop held in Yogyakarta on 30 September to 1 October, this network was also preparing a study guide to incorporate materials on freedom of expression and privacy in a number of courses in law schools. Incorporation of the materials is expected to have an impact in increasing public understanding of freedom of expression in Indonesia.

Writer: Lintang Setianti
Editor: Wahyudi Djafar