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Indonesia: Revised Information Law Controversial

(Nov. 2, 2016) On October 27, 2016, Indonesia’s House of Representatives adopted a revision of the 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions. The amended Law is now awaiting action by President Joko Widodo to put it into effect. (ITE Law Draft Revision Passed into Law, JAKARTA POST (Oct. 27, 2016); Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 11 Tahun 2008 Tentang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik [Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 11, 2008, on Electronic Information and Transactions], House of Representatives website; English translation of Law No. 11, 2008, Press Council website.)

The Minister of Communications and Information, Rudiantara, noted that there were only a few minor changes made to the amending legislation recently. The new amendment covers a number of different issues and “it is expected that they can answer problems posed by the current [technological] developments.” (ITE Law Draft Revision Passed into Law, supra.)

The changes to the Law include an expanded definition of defamation and libel, contained in article 27(3). Those convicted of defamation might now be sentenced to up to six years of imprisonment, an increase over the previous maximum of four years, in addition to up to Rp750 million in fines (about US$57,000). That highest possible fine represents a reduction from the previous ceiling of Rp1 billion. Supporting violent actions as stipulated in article 29 of the Law is now punishable with a maximum term of imprisonment of four years, with the same possible fine; this also represents a reduction in the most severe possible sentence from the previous 12 years in prison and up to Rp2 billion in fines. (Id.)

Reactions to the Revised Law

The revised Law has been criticized by Asep Komaruddin of the Legal Aid Institute for the Press. He focused on the potential threat to press freedom posed by article 26, which states that “[e]very electronic system organizer is required to delete electronic information deemed no longer relevant by someone who requests the deletion based on a court ruling.” (Right Contained in ITE Law to Delete Negative News Threatens Press Freedom: Activist, JAKARTA POST (Oct. 28, 2016).) Komaruddin argued that if this article is used together with article 40, which allows government officials to prevent the dissemination of information with prohibited content, the Law “can become a new way for the government to restrict press freedom.” (Id.) He also pointed out that article 26 contradicts a previous law, which denies the right to delete past news reports. (Id.; Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 40 Tahun 1999 Tentang Pers [Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 40, 1999, on the Press], House of Representatives website.)

Similar concerns were raised by Wahyudi Djafar of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, who said “[g]ranting the government full authority to terminate access to prohibited content on the internet is dangerous because it carries huge risks of power abuses.” (Revised ITE Law Could Hamper Freedom of Expression: Researcher, JAKARTA POST (Oct. 31, 2016).) Prohibited content, as described in the 2008 law, included material thought to violate decency; promote gambling; insult or defame; extort; spread false news resulting in consumer losses in electronic transactions; cause hatred based on ethnicity, religion, race, or group; or contain threats of violence. (Law No. 11, 2008, arts. 27-29.) Djafar also criticized article 26, stating that the right to have information deleted “may benefit some groups who want to scrap their track records, such as deleting information about human rights abuse cases in the past.” (Revised ITE Law Could Hamper Freedom of Expression: Researcher, supra.)

Speaking for the Ministry of Communications and Information, Noor Iza said that the revision was needed because there were issues with the implementation of the existing legislation. He added that the revision was “what the public has wanted all this time, namely letting the government have greater power in managing information technology.” (Id.)