15 December 2019

Jokowi's Award given to Surya Paloh was a bad precedent in the nation’s stance on press freedom

KONFRONTASI-The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has warned President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo not to mess with freedom of speech and expression and not to take the country back to the days of Soeharto's New Order era when repression of the press was common.
According to AJI chairman Suwarjono, there are three indications that Jokowi has a tendency to curb the freedom of speech and press freedom. The first is a draft of a Criminal Code (KUHP) amendment that makes insulting the president a crime, which will be submitted to the House of Representatives (DPR), a provision that was annulled by the Constitutional Court.

“If the provision is reinstated, the first victim will be the press. The provision on insulting the president is open to interpretation. If there are critical sources, including the media, the rule could easily silence them,” said Suwarjono in a press release on Saturday as quoted by tribunnews.com.

The second indication is that the government, in this case the Communications and Information Technology Ministry, has made no effort to eliminate the criminalization of free speech on the Internet. The draft revision of the Electronic Information and Transaction Law compiled by the ministry still includes criminal charges that negate freedom of opinion.

The third indication, AJI said, was Jokowi’s speech at the legislature on Friday.

In his speech, Jokowi said: “Currently there are tendencies that people feel they are ultimately free to behave and voice their opinions as they like. This is less productive when the media only pursues ratings instead of guiding the public to be virtuous and have a productive work culture.”

According to AJI, Jokowi's statement was hypocritical, since one day prior to the speech he awarded a Bintang Mahaputra Utama medal of merit to Surya Paloh, the owner of MetroTV station. In 2014, AJI announced the chief editor of MetroTV an enemy of press freedom. AJI said the award given to Surya Paloh was a bad precedent in the nation’s stance on press freedom and the independence of newsrooms.

“In a democratic country, differences of opinion in the media are common. If parties object to a report, they have the right to respond or ask for a correction. If they are still not satisfied, then they can take the issue to the Press Council, not to the police,” said AJI’s head of advocacy Iman D. Nugroho.

Iman expressed hope that the President would not issue policies that could be used as weapons for law enforcement agencies to ensnare critical citizens.

“Freedom of opinion and press freedom are important parts of a democratic system. If they are repressed, get ready to go back to the dark ages,” said Iman. (kes/Jakpost)

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