ELSAM Press Conference: World Press Freedom Day 2016: Improvement Stimulator of Press Policy in Indonesia

World Press Freedom Day was celebrated with the limitation of journalist access to Papua and criminalization and blocking of online sites. World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by UN General Assembly in Declaration of Sofia A/DEC/48/432 year 1993 on May 3rd. This annual celebration also marks 25 years of The 1991 Windhoek Declaration that is based on the principles of independency and diversity in journalism as an important part in protection of freedom of expression and opinion, which is admitted by UN since 1948. The press freedom in Indonesia after 23 years of Sofia Declaration and 68 years since the admission in The Declaration of Universal Human Rights, at some perspectives is systematically declining due to the implementation of various policies which has the tendency to be repressive.

The initial data of Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) found that there were at least six violence cases on journalist in the first six month of 2016. The violence cases included the confiscation of photos from Radar Malang journalist (10 February 2016), intimidation toward West Java local newspaper photographer when reported Banceuy penitentiary (23 April 2016),violence against Padang TV and Harian Korban Padang (Padang Local Newspaper) journalist (19 April 2016), violence against the journalist when make a report in a court PN Tanjungkarang, Lampung (14 March 2016), violence against journalist in Bulukumba, South Sulawesi (8 March 2016), and the expulsion of journalist in Dogiyai, Papua (25 April 2016). These cases completed 47 violence cases toward press that occurred in 2015 which generally in the form of intimidation, persecution, banning and confiscation of journalistic products compiled by the Alliance of Independent Journalists.

Arbitrary censorship without any clear and accountable procedure also has become a new threat toward press freedom, particularly using the networking media such as blog. Arbitrary censorship on websites and blogs is a part of violation on freedom to spread the information online (the right to blog), of which it is also guaranteed by Article 19 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Since 2012, the intimidation and censorship on news sites in networking and blogs has become serious attention of UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. According to UN Special Rapporteur, the practice of “online journalism” is able to “enrich media landscape by increasing the access to information source, stimulate the analysis on information, and promote the diversity of opinion, particularly in critical period.”

Meanwhile, the landscape of press policies in Indonesia currently has not yet shown the significant improvement. The existence of the Law No. 11 / 2008 about Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE), which is now in the process of revision in DPR, automatically becomes an evidence of the declining of freedom of press in Indonesia, particularly press activity online. In addition to that, there are numbers of policies draft such as Draft on Criminal Code on the contempt of court, as well as the crime of defamation based on profession (Article 271 Paragraph [2]), and Draft on Criminal Act on Contempt of Court, that a chance to threat the press independency, autonomy, and criticism toward social and political system in Indonesia.

The Law No. 40 / 1999 about Press mentions that the freedom of press is a manifestation of people sovereignty which becomes the foundation of constitution as mandated in the 1945 Constitution. Unfortunately, the mandate has the chance to face serious betrayal from some draft of the laws. Although mentioned as one the biggest democracy country in the world with the good guarantee of freedom of press, Reporters without Border still placed freedom of press index in Indonesia in the position of 130 in 2016, of which it does not experience significant improvement compared with the previous year.

Therefore ELSAM emphasized that the celebration of World Press Freedom this year has to become a stimulator for policy improvement and enforcement practice as well as promotion for freedom of expression in Indonesia. In addition, the celebration of World Press Freedom in 2016 focused on three main issues, which are (1) freedom to get information as the fundamental freedom as well as human rights, (2) protection on press freedom from excessive censorship and surveillance, (4) guarantee the security of journalistic activity either online or offline.

The World Press Freedom Day should be the impulse for Indonesian Government to recall the human rights commitment, as well as synchronize its various policies on press with the press protection principles as mentioned in The 1945 Constitution and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indonesia has to take better actions in its practice and policies in order to thoroughly put the freedom of press as an essential part for freedom of expression as well as the pillar of democracy.

Jakarta, 3 May 2016