​Press Council Chairman compares new police push against “hate speech” to colonial-era censorship

National Police Chief Badrodin Haiti recently released a circular to all officers regarding their approach to policing hate speech. Based upon existing laws including the country’s criminal code, it asks police to combat hate speech in all of its forms, based upon laws that ambiguously define the concept as being anything including speech that could incite violence, slander, defamation, and spreading lies.

The police have argued that they are trying to protect harmony and diversity in Indonesia, not limit free speech. Yet, we have already seen Police Chief Badrodin calling a criticism of the President Joko Widodo (in this case, netizens suspicious that Jokowi misrepresented a photo of himself with members of the Suku Anak Dalam tribe) a form of hate speech that police would pursue despite the presidential palace not asking them to.

The circular and the police’s new hardline approach to hate speech has been criticized by a number of commentators and human rights activists. But the best criticism we’ve seen has come from Indonesian Press Council Chairman Bagir Manan, who compared the approach to that taken by the Dutch while they were Indonesia’s colonial overlords.

“In colonial times, the Netherlands implemented these kinds of laws and many members of the press had to go to jail. So at this time, the press should fight not to reopen those chapters in history,” he said on Monday as quoted by Tribunnews.

Bagir Manan, a former Supreme Court chief justice, also said that the circular and the law were ambiguous in their interpretation and could be used to silence those with valid criticisms.  He noted that facing criticism was something every public official must accept as a part of their job if they want to improve themselves and the country.


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