SAFEnet: Defamation Does Not Need Criminal Law

Report Post

Around 72% of Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (UU ITE) plaintiffs reported on defamation. Public officials are often the ones filing the reports.

One of most urgent problems in Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (UU ITE) in Indonesia is the article of defamation. This article is often used as a tool of revenge by parties holding power and money, using an excuse of giving deterrent effect to parties considered harming. However, in most countries, currently defamation is under civil law with fine as a punishment, and no longer imprisonment.

This issue was expressed by the coordinator of volunteer network “Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), Damar Juniarto, in a series of Friday Coffee Break discussion on Friday (8/3) in Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia (AJCUI). This discussion was collaboration among Marketing and Public Relations Bureau, Institute of Research and Community Service and the Department of Communication Studies of AJCUI.

Defamation itself is a law born since colonial era. Besides stated in article 27 (3) of UU ITE, defamation is also stated in article 310-311 of Criminal Code (KUHP). Originally, this law was used by the Dutch colonial government to punish those who insulted the queen and colonial government.

“The problem is that after we are independent, this law is preserved by changing the subject. Those insulted are no longer the queen and colonial government, but public,” said Damar. “The asymmetrical characteristic it has makes this law cannot run well.”

An experience of Muhammad Arsyad, the Head of UU ITE Victim Association (PAKU ITE), reflects this issue. Arsyad, who was an activist of Garda Tipikor Makassar, went into jail in 2014 since he was considered defaming Nurdin Halid through his status on BlackBerry Messenger. In his BBM status, Arsyad mentioned Nurdin Halid as a corruptor. He was then reported by Abdul Wahab, a member of Regional House of Representative of Makassar from Golkar.

“I stayed in prison for 103 days. What most people do not know, the hardest part is actually after you go out from jail. My parents had to sell our house and moved to other village due to trauma. After being free, I also needed to move from Makassar because my family was afraid to have anything to do with police again,” said Arsyad. “In Jakarta, I lived without direction because I couldn’t get a job, couldn’t make Police Certificate of Good Conduct (SKCK) and couldn’t live properly. Is everything that I have experienced compatible with deterrent effects as wished by the plaintiff?”

Meanwhile, according to a lecturer of Atma Jaya Faculty of Law, Asmin Fransiska, UU ITE is a law which violates itself. Actually at first this law is preserved to control electronic information and transactions and to protect public from cybercrime. However, the contents of article 27 to 54 talk about punishment. “It is a contradiction,” said Asmin. “The purpose of this law is to give regulation, not to intimidate people.”

Based on SAFEnet observation, in UU ITE, justice is not the aim. There are 5 patterns of criminalizing, in UU ITE there are revenge, case barter, silencing criticism, shock therapy, and expression persecution. “Because of this, UU ITE needs to be revised and it is our responsibility as civilians to monitor it,” said Damar.