The Indonesian government is keen on preserving freedom of speech and expression, an official said, ahead of an anticipated major overhaul to the country’s Criminal Code (KUHP).
Deputy Justice and Human Rights Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hariej said one important step in doing so is the eradication of articles related to online defamation in the controversial Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), which will happen along with the ratification of the bill to revise KUHP (RKUHP).
“[The new] KUHP will erase articles related to defamation and slander in UU ITE. So I think this is good news for democracy and freedom of expression,” Edward said in Jakarta yesterday.
Many, including President Joko Widodo, have criticized UU ITE for containing ambiguously worded articles related to defamation and slander. Critics have long warned that the law has been used as a tool of oppression and to silence genuine criticisms against those in power.
As it stands, online defamation is a crime punishable by up to six years in prison under UU ITE.
However, there does seem to be a trade-off for this supposed good news.
“We will insert the [defamation] clauses in UU ITE into RKUHP while making the necessary adjustments,” Edward added.
So while we may not have to worry about online defamation per se should RKUHP pass, the bill has raised concerns for its inclusion of other articles related to slander, which would, among others, criminalize slander towards the president and the government.
Other controversial articles contained in the government’s final draft of RKUHP include the criminalization of cohabitation, blasphemy, and contraception education.
RKUHP is widely expected to be ratified in a plenary session before the House of Parliament goes into recess on Dec. 15. KUHP, which has been in place since Indonesia declared independence in 1945, is a slightly modified version of the Wetboek van Strafrecht voor Nederlandsch-Indie, which was the criminal code put into law during the Dutch colonial era in 1918.