Indonesians could be jailed for criticising national politicians under a new law which came into force Thursday (March 15), in what critics slammed as a major step back for the world's third-biggest democracy.
The vaguely worded Bill passed the 560-member House last month but has just become official, over the objections of President Joko Widodo who refused to sign off on the controversial legislation.
Joko does not have veto power over the Bill, although it can be challenged at the Constitutional Court.
The so-called MD3 law opens to the door to pressing charges against anyone who "disrespects Parliament or its members" but does not set out possible minimum or maximum jail terms.
From this morning's Jakarta Post:
Just one day after the controversial Legislative Institutions (MD3) Law took effect, opposition from the public has grown stronger, with judicial review requests filed to the Constitutional Court piling up.Asma Dewi sentenced to jail for using swear words to criticize government - Jakarta Post
More than 100 civil society organization members and scholars staged a protest in front of the court building on Thursday to demand the court annul several problematic articles passed by the House of Representatives last month.
A group calling itself Presidium Rakyat Menggugat (PRM) filed a judicial review against articles 73, 122 and 245 of the law, numbered Law No. 2/2018, which they believe give lawmakers the freedom to act with impunity and criminalize members of the public who oppose them.
Article 73 gives the House added power to summon anyone they seek to question by enlisting the help of the police to compel the summoned person to attend the questioning. Article 122, the most hotly debated part of the law, grants the House’s ethics council (MKD) the power to press criminal charges against any citizen it deems to have disrespected the House or its members.
In addition, Article 245 stipulates that House members cannot be investigated by law enforcement officials without the approval of the President and the consideration of the MKD.
The South Jakarta District Court sentenced Asma Dewi on Thursday to five months and 15 days in jail for using the words koplak (loosely translated to stupid) and edun (loosely translated to crazy) to criticize the government on Facebook.
Asma was found guilty of violating Article 207 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) for insulting those in power or legal institutions.
Upon her arrest in September 2017, police said she was possibly linked to the Saracen group, a news outlet accused of producing hate speech. The police said Asma sent money to Saracen.
However, Asma’s lawyers later said the police’s dossiers and the indictment against Asma did not mention anything about Saracen or money.
During Thursday’s hearing, the judges said Asma’s criticism on Facebok was not “constructive”. “Don’t use koplak or edun, which can be construed as insulting according to this article,” said presiding judge Aris Bawono as quoted by kompas.com.
The judge said both words were not in the Indonesian official dictionary, but both had negative connotations.
“Koplak can mean many things: stupid, imbecile, strange, not right in the head,” he said.
Asma’s sentence takes into account her detention period, therefore she may walk away free.
The sentence was lighter than the two years’ imprisonment and Rp 300 million fine sought by prosecutors. (evi)