The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and 13 individuals filed a judicial review of the State Intelligence Law at the Constitutional Court in Jakarta on 5 January, in protest of the law that is said to threaten freedom of the press and democracy in Indonesia.
The House of Representatives gave its approval for the bill on 11 October 2011, following which Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono passed it into Law No.17/2011 on State Intelligence on 7 November 2011.
AJI, IMPARSIAL, ELSAM, YLBHI, Perkumpulan Masyarakat Setara, and 13 Indonesian nationals who were members of the Coalition of the Advocacy of Law on State Intelligence argued that the legislation went against the 1945 Constitution, particularly Article 28F on the freedom of expression and information.
“The State Intelligence Law contains vague and broadly defined articles. The definition of intelligence secret contained in Article 1 of section (6) is careless and extensive. In fact, it is broader than the definition of exempted “information” in the Law on Public Information Disclosure. This clearly imperils journalists as it will criminalize the spread of public information,” said AJI president Eko Maryadi.
In addition, the law also empowers a number of public institutions including government ministries to carry out intelligence acts under Article 9(e), creating the opportunity for authorities to classify public information as state intelligence.
“This development affects the guarantees on freedom of the press under the Press Law,” Eko said, adding that media scrutiny and criticism of state institutions could be deemed as a crime if journalists used or cited documents that have been classified. If found guilty under the law, the punishment is a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
According to AJI, in addition to threatening the rights of the public to gain information as well as the freedom of the press, the State Intelligence Law could potentially lead to abuse of power and violation of human rights.
In their petition, AJI and the others call on the Constitutional Court to consider various problematic Articles (1, 4, 6, 9, 22, 25, 26, 29, 31, 34, 44 and 45), on the definitions and scope of the law. AJI also calls on journalists and the general public to defend freedom of the press and freedom of access to public information guaranteed by the 1945 Constitution.
The Allansi Jurnalis Independen (Alliance of Independent Journalists or AJI) is a founding member of SEAPA. Based in Jakarta, Indonesia, AJI seeks to promote press freedom and protect the rights of Indonesian journalists.