National Internet Policy Must Follow Global Standards and Principles

SEAPA member AJI Indonesia held a discussion in internet governance prior to the IGF in Bali, and they have come to the conclusion that the country’s laws on the internet needs reform.

Case study: Wahyu Dwi Pranata, a student of Dian Nuswantoro University (Udinus), Semarang, Central Java was forced to leave his studies for writing an article criticizing university policy. University authorities considered Whayu’s article as defaming his campus. His article was submitted to online news portal Wawasanews on 23 December 2013.

Wahyu had already been summoned several times by the rector of the university, yet he kept writing. After writing a piece titled “You Robbed Billions from Us and You Treat Us as Paupers” in his blog, the university then called his parents. He was given two options: be charged with defamation based on Electronic Transaction Information Act (ITE Act — UU ITE No. 11/2008), or resign from his university, in other words, be expelled from the campus.

But way before Wahyu’s case, there had been a number of bloggers who were charged under the same Act for indictment of defamation. Internet certainly allows the society to exchange information fast and in real time, but often without sufficient understanding of the impact of information dispersion.

Between Cyber Freedom and Threat of Criminalization

The problem now is how and who will govern, guarantee, and protect the safety of citizens amidst unprecedented freedom of information and data exchange in cyberspace? How and who will protect the personal data, and who will keep the freedom of expression within the borders of ethics and tolerance?

In line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right for freedom of expression, and to get information. The Internet is an information highway, be it useful or junk information – including those that insult people,  hate speech, and even news that trigger conflicts.

AJI sees here is where balance must be maintained on the rights to express, to have opinions, and to get information, with prohibiting hate speech and war propaganda. Nevertheless, the boundaries set have to follow permissible restrictions acknowledged by the international community.

AJI and the Issue of Internet Governance

In Indonesia, internet governance is still unclear and confusing. There are still debates of who has which roles and responsibilities. As a response to WSIS request, the UN Secretary General formed a working group to explore issues of internet governance and to develop common understanding of the many roles of stakeholders.

In the Focus Group Discussion (FGD) of Internet Governance in Indonesia held by AJI Indonesia on 17 October in Jakarta, some issues on New Media in Indonesia were raised. Several issues were identified and were grouped into three clusters: (1) content, (2) infrastructure, (3) internet business.

Challenge of Content

The release of Guidance for Cyber Media Reporting by online media, publishers,and journalist associations, and the Press Council has improved news ethics in terms of content. At present, there is even a trend that good news are the most read news. Online media readers are no longer stuck on sensational news. In other words, ihe good news is that they are not looking for bad news anymore.

However, aggregators pose a problem for content. Online media managers have been complaining that aggregators often just grab content from others and claim it as their own. This phenomenon constantly growing, and is detrimental to the online news sources who have spent time and energy to build content.

Another content-related problem is news that are both centralistic and capital city-biased. At present, more than 60 percent of online media readers are from the Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi, area of the capital city. This has created a tendency of “Jakarta-centered” content. The social dynamics of Jakarta’s public are dominating the news, from politics, economy, even to reports of Jakarta traffic. News diversity in the internet is yet to be seen geographically.

Challenge of Infrastructure

The root of cause for this unbalanced and Jakarta-centered information dispersion is the poor and unbalanced development of internet infrastructure in Indonesia. AJI is urging the government, through the relevant ministry, to focus on their duties to develop and disperse internet infrastructure throughout the country.

In fact, within the island of Java itself, from Sabang in the West to Merauke in the East, internet access is not evenly distributed. FGD participants from Purwokerto, Malang, and Bali, unanimously agreed that internet access similar to Jakarta is still a luxury in their area – not only in terms of bandwidth capacity to upload content, but even simply getting internet access is still expensive and difficult.

AJI sees that diversity and quality of (media) content from the regions have to be in line with the hard work from the government to expand and improve internet network and infrastructure.

Challenge of Internet Business

From a business perspective, the excitement of online media rebirth faces a not-so-light challenge. Business competition among online media for advertising is now not merely confined to local and national entities. The arrival of global media taking a big piece of the cake is a serious threat. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Youtube for example, are aggressively capturing online advertising revenue in Indonesia. There is even suspicion that the advertising transaction with the global giants does not contribute tax revenues to the country.

Lack of clear regulatory protection has forced local media to directly face online business giants, similar to how small shops have to compete with foreign-owned hypermarts.

AJI : Remove the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Act

Based on these three areas of challenges, online media managers would like to see a form of internet governance that could address these problems. At present, Indonesian internet governance is unclear and very similar to a walk in a wild forest. Internet policies are not transparent and have a tendency to benefit those in power. The present ITE Act – designed during the earlier days of the internet and before the social media boom – cannot yet meet the needs of internet stakeholders. The ITE Act instead suppresses and threatens internet users through defamation articles.

As an part of its advocacy, AJI requests the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to to be co-responsible and co-manage internet governance towards a just and reliable online business in Indonesia.

Relevant to the ITE Act no. 11 / 2008, AJI Indonesia has proposed for the removal of this law and its replacement with an “Internet Governance Act” that will meet the common needs of civil society, the industry, and the government. At the same time, AJI is urging the formation of an independent commission similar to the Press Council or KPI, to make decisions on internet dispute, uphold online ethics and business regulations, and decide on filtering issues.

Global Internet Governance

AJI would like to see internet governance policy in Indonesia to be in accordance with international policy. Since 2004, Internet governance has become a focus of global discussion in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). It is noteworthy that internet governance discussions always involves three actors, namely the government, private sector and civil society.

As part of civil society, AJI has its role in the policy making process in Internet issues. Civil society engagement is crucial for a government policy that is both participatory and in line with public aspirations.

 

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) INDONESIA

Contacts :

Eko Maryadi, President of AJI Indonesia (+62) 0811 852 857
Asep Saefullah, New Media Division (+62) 0878 824 65 333