Legal action against Indonesian rights defenders under fire
Civilian groups in Indonesia criticized a minister and a presidential chief of staff for filing police reports against human rights defenders and activists in connection with their statements about the alleged involvement of the two state officials in some projects.
The Minister responsible for the coordination of maritime affairs and investments, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, filed on September 22 a police report against Fatia Maulidiyanti, coordinator of the Commission for the Missing and Victims of Violence, and Haris Azhar, Executive Director of the Lokataru Law and Human Rights Office, for violating the Information and Electronic Transactions Act by “damaging someone’s honor or reputation by accusations” and “defamation” after the two claims were dismissed in a subpoena to apologize for mentioning it in a talk show video.
In the video, the two rights defenders discussed the findings of a recent report that revealed how the location of military and police stations around mining concessions in Intan Jaya District, Papua Province, was identified as being linked to Indonesian Army generals and the relationship between corporate concessions and military deployment.
It was claimed in the video that the minister owns shares in the PT Toba Sejahtera group, a company that controls PT Tobacom Del Mandiri, one of the companies involved in mining operations in the Wabu Block area of the district.
Previously, the Chief of Staff of the Presidential Office, Moeldoko, had filed a defamation complaint against two activists of the Indonesia Corruption Watch over allegations that the former military chief cashed in the distribution of the Covid-19 drug Ivermectin and abused his authority to join the rice export program.
Ismail Hasani, executive director of the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, called such a legal move a “shrinking civic space.”
The National Police Chief can still convince the public that our democracy remains healthy by ending police reporting and focusing on a just solution
“Even though legal action is a citizens’ right, it is a shame that state officials have taken legal action to respond to criticism. Criticism must be answered with objective criticism, and research must also be answered with research results, and so on. In this way, our democracy will remain healthy, ”he said in a statement on September 23.
“It seems they didn’t understand the difference between reliable criticism and defamation.”
According to Hasani, the incidents have raised alarm bells over threats to academic freedom and freedom of expression among human rights defenders and activists.
“We want the national police chief to apply the law on information and electronic transactions selectively by focusing on persuasive approaches. Defamation should not be used as a valid reason to bring human rights defenders to justice, ”he said.
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“The national police chief can always convince the public that our democracy remains healthy by putting an end to police reporting and focusing on a just solution.”
A similar request came from the Clean Indonesia advocacy team. In a statement released on September 23, the group called on the national police chief to drop the prosecution of state officials.
“This is because what Azhar and Maulidiyanti did as well as Egi Primayogha and Miftahul Choir did was purely part of the freedom of expression and the views and work of human rights defenders which are guaranteed by the constitution and regulations. in force, ”the group said.
The group also urged the National Human Rights Commission to issue recommendations regarding measures to protect human rights defenders.
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