Retracting on Revision
The proposal to revise the Electronic Information and Transactions Law put forth by President Joko Widodo has faded away. Do not fall for the same trick twice.
THERE are two possible reasons why the proposal to revise the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law put forward by President Joko Widodo has ended with an anticlimax. Firstly, the President’s subordinates do not want to go along with the wishes of their boss. Secondly, the President does not really want to amend the law that has resulted in so many victims.
Regarding the first possibility, instead of following up on the President’s suggestion by drawing up an academic document, his subordinates changed tack saying that the problem was simply one of interpretation. The second possibility is even worse. The President was simply paying lip service to cover up the poor state of democracy in Indonesia—as mentioned in a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit at the beginning of February.
After the proposal to revise the law was expressed by Jokowi in a meeting with the leadership of the Indonesian Military and the National Police at the beginning of February, the communication and informatics ministry welcomed it by establishing an ITE Law implementation guide team to produce an official interpretation of the law. The coordinating ministry for political, legal and security affairs then established a study team to work for three months and report the results of its deliberations to the Coordinating Minister, Mahfud Md. Both of these endeavors are mistaken—assuming they are not simply an effort to play for time so that the amendments do not go ahead.
However well intended, several interpretations in a guideline issued by a ministry will not stop the articles of this law being applied. The lengthy list of victims of this law and the stack of legal opinions concerning the disadvantages of it are more than enough to conclude that it must be changed.
And neither will justice be served simply through the National Police chief circular asking law enforcers to be selective in applying the ITE Law. Among other things, this circular states that the law will not be applied if the plaintiff and the defendant are willing to reach a compromise.
Since the outset, the core of the problem is the catchall provisions in the ITE Law, namely Article 27 paragraph 3 on defamation and Article 28 paragraph 2 on incitement of hatred. As long as these articles are not removed, do not be surprised if many more people will fall victim.
It is important to remember that the confusion over this law is not only because members of the public file reports against each other, but also because the state has taken advantage of it. The defamation and incitement to hatred articles have in practice frequently been used to silence dissenting voices, including those critical of the government.
The ITE Law has become a tool used by the authorities to stifle opinion. The public must be careful of all non-serious endeavors by the government to revise this dangerous law. We must not forget that this kind of ‘trick’ was used by the government when it promised to issue a government regulation in lieu of law to correct the Corruption Eradication Law that emasculated the anti-graft agency. The public must not fall for the same trick twice.