Indonesia is a multiparty democracy. On April 17, Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi) won a second five-year term as president. Voters also elected new members of the House of Representatives (DPR), as well as members of the Regional Representative Council (DPD) and provisional legislatures. Domestic and international observers deemed the elections to be free and fair.
The Indonesian National Police (POLRI) is responsible for internal security and reports directly to the president. The Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI), under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external defense and under certain conditions may provide operational support to police, for example, for counterterrorism operations, maintaining public order, and addressing communal conflicts. Civilian authorities maintained control over security forces.
In Papua Province the government increased security operations following December 2018 attacks by members of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), which killed 19 civilians and one army soldier at a Trans Papua road project construction site in the remote highlands district of Nduga, Papua. Ongoing clashes between the OPM and security forces displaced thousands of civilians and created serious humanitarian concerns.
Significant human rights issues included: reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings by government security forces; reports of torture by police; arbitrary detention by the government; political prisoners; censorship, including laws addressing treason, blasphemy, defamation, decency, site blocking, and criminal libel; corruption; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; criminalization of same-sex sexual activities at the local level; and forced or compulsory labor.
While the government took steps to investigate and prosecute some officials who committed human rights abuses, impunity for serious human rights abuses remained a concern. At times the courts meted out disparate and more severe punishment for civilians than for government officials found guilty of the same crimes.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution broadly provides for freedom of expression while including some limitations. Some elements within the government, the judiciary, and police used laws against defamation and blasphemy to restrict freedom of expression, including for the press. The government used provisions of law against advocacy of separatism to restrict the ability of individuals and media to advocate peacefully for independence.
Freedom of Expression: The law criminalizes content deemed insulting to a religion or advocating separatism. The law also criminalizes hate speech, defined as “purposeful or unlawful dissemination of information aimed to create hatred or animosity against an individual or a particular group based on their race, beliefs and ethnicity.”
By law “spreading religious hatred, heresy, and blasphemy” is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. Protests by Islamic groups or conservative clerical councils often prompted local authorities to act under the law. According to Amnesty International, in 2018 at least 30 individuals remained incarcerated for speech deemed blasphemous, immoral, or insulting.
In March the Supreme Court rejected the appeal and affirmed the sentence of a Buddhist woman of Chinese descent who in 2018 had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for blasphemy after she complained about the volume of loudspeakers at a mosque in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra.
Although the law permits flying a flag symbolizing Papua’s cultural identity generally, a government regulation specifically prohibits the display of the Morning Star flag in Papua, as well as the Republic of South Maluku flag in Molucca and the Free Aceh Movement Crescent Moon flag in Aceh. NGOs reported that on August 31, police arrested six activists, including five Papuan students in Jakarta and Surya Anta Ginting, for flying the Morning Star flag outside the state palace. On September 3, police arrested an activist, Sayang Mandabayan, at the Manokwari airport for traveling with 1,500 small Morning Star flags.
Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. The government, however, sometimes used regional and national regulations to restrict media. While some foreign journalists received permits for travel to Papua and West Papua Provinces, others reported bureaucratic delays or denials, ostensibly for safety reasons. Advocates for press freedom alleged that a governmental interagency group continued to review requests by foreign journalists to visit the region. The constitution protects journalists from interference, and the law requires that anyone who deliberately prevents journalists from doing their job shall face a maximum prison sentence of two years or a fine of Indonesian rupiah (IDR) 500 million ($35,700).
Violence and Harassment: The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) reported 20 cases of violence directed at journalists and media offices between January and April. The AJI also reported that at least seven journalists were victims of violence during postelection riots in Jakarta. Police and protesters allegedly restrained journalists forcefully, confiscated their devices, and forced them to delete pictures and videos. Some journalists reported other instances of physical intimidation during the incidents.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Attorney General’s Office has authority to monitor written material and request a court order to ban written material. During August and September, protests in Papua, Jakarta, and elsewhere, authorities limited access to the internet or to particular social media sites, saying this was done to prevent the spread of disinformation.
Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation provisions of the law prohibit libel and slander, which are punishable with five-year prison terms.
Elements within the government and society selectively enforced criminal defamation law to intimidate individuals and restrict freedom of speech. In March police arrested Robertus Robet, a university lecturer and prodemocracy activist, for singing a song on February 28 that allegedly insulted the military. Robet was charged with insulting those in power or legal institutions and released after 14 hours. He faced a maximum penalty of 18 months’ imprisonment; the case had not gone to trial as of October.
In late July, President Widodo granted amnesty to Baiq Nuril, a West Nusa Tenggara high school teacher convicted in November 2018 of defaming her principal when she recorded his lewd telephone calls, which were then circulated online. Baiq had been sentenced to six months in prison and fined IDR 500 million ($35,700).
Nongovernmental Impact: Hardline Muslim groups sometimes intimidated perceived critics of Islam in order to limit their speech rights.
The government prosecuted individuals for free expression under a law that bans online crime, pornography, gambling, blackmail, lies, threats, and racism and prohibits citizens from distributing in electronic format any information deemed defamatory. The law carries maximum penalties of six years in prison, a fine of IDR one billion ($71,400), or both.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology limited internet access and access to some platforms such as WhatsApp during election-related violence in May. The ministry stated it did so to prevent the spread of disinformation and reduce the potential for further violence. In response to the August/September protests in Papua and West Papua and to prevent the “spread of hoaxes,” the government directed internet service providers (ISPs) to slow internet connections throughout the two provinces and to halt internet service completely in certain parts of Papua. NGO sources reported that telephone service was also cut off in the city of Wamena, Papua. Internet and telephone service was reportedly restored in most of the region the week of September 3.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology continued to request that ISPs block access to content containing “prohibited electronic information,” including pornography, radical religious content, extortion, threats, and hate speech. A failure to enforce these restrictions could result in the revocation of an ISP’s license. The government also intervened with social media, search engines, app stores, and other websites to remove offensive and extremist content and revoke licenses that did not promptly comply with government demands.
The government generally did not place restrictions on cultural events or academic freedom, but it occasionally disrupted sensitive cultural events or activities or failed to prevent hardline groups from doing so. Universities and other academic institutions also sometimes succumbed to pressure from Islamist groups seeking to restrict sensitive events and activities.
On February 11, the West Java Broadcasting Commission issued a circular ordering regional broadcasters to limit the broadcasting hours of 17 English-language songs deemed explicit and suggestive to between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. This order was based on a regulation that obliges broadcasters to limit explicit content and respect the norms of decency embraced by different religions and ethnic groups.
In March the rector of North Sumatra University (USU), a public university, revoked the publishing permit of the campus’ student website, Suara USU, after it published what the rector called a homosexual love story. University authorities accused students of “promoting homosexuality” and violating “the vision and mission of the university.” Student journalists were given 48 hours to vacate the Suara USU office, and all 17 staff members were replaced. The student journalists filed a lawsuit against the rector, and hearings were underway as of October.
The government-supervised Film Censorship Institute continued to censor domestic and imported movies for content deemed religiously or otherwise offensive.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government sometimes restricted these freedoms.
The law provides for freedom of assembly, and outside Papua the government generally respected this right. The law requires demonstrators to provide police with a written notification three days before any planned demonstration and requires police to issue a receipt for the written notification. This receipt acts as a de facto license for the demonstration. Police in Papua routinely refused to issue such receipts to would-be demonstrators out of concern the demonstrations would include calls for independence, an act prohibited by law. A 2016 Papua provincial police decree prohibits rallies by seven organizations labeled as proindependence groups, including the National Committee of West Papua, United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and Free Papua Movement.
NGOs claim that at least six protesters were killed during clashes on August 28 in the town of Waghete, Deiyai Regency, Papua; the government disputes those numbers and maintains security forces acted lawfully.
The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, which the government generally respected.
To receive official registration status, foreign NGOs must have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a government ministry. Some organizations reported difficulties obtaining these MOUs and claimed the government was withholding them to block their registration status, although cumbersome bureaucracy within the Ministry of Law and Human Rights was also to blame.
Some LGBTI advocacy groups reported encountering difficulties when attempting to register their organizations.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The law provides for freedom of internal movement and generally allows for travel outside of the country, but the constitution allows the government to prevent persons from entering or leaving the country. The law gives the military broad powers in a declared state of emergency, including the power to limit land, air, and sea traffic. The government did not use these powers during the year.
In-country Movement: In August, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto (one name only) announced that the government was restricting foreign nationals’ access to the provinces of Papua and West Papua in light of protest violence.
The government collects data on displacement caused by natural hazards and conflict through the National Disaster Management Authority, although the lack of systematic monitoring of return and resettlement conditions made it difficult to estimate reliably the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The law stipulates the government must provide for “the fulfillment of the rights of the people and displaced persons affected by disaster in a manner that is fair and in line with the minimum service standards.” IDPs were not abused or deprived of services or other rights and protections, but resource and access constraints delayed or hindered the provision of services to IDPs in some cases.
The National Disaster Management Authority reported that from January through May, 373 persons were killed in natural disasters and more than 1,239,000 were displaced.
The Ministry of Social Affairs reported that 3,000 Papuan residents have been displaced since the government increased security operations against OPM fighters following the OPM’s December 2018 attack against Trans Papua road project workers. NGOs reported the number of displaced persons was significantly higher.
According to multiple media outlets, a security operation in late August in the Gome District of the highland regency of Puncak, Papua, resulted in the displacement of several hundred indigenous persons, mainly women and children. Security force raids in the villages of Tegelobak, Mitimaga, Kelanungin, Upaga, and Ninggabuma sought to arrest Goliat Tabuni and Anton Tabuni, two commanders of the West Papua National Liberation Army who were active in that area.
A local parliament member, Yanes Murib, told Papuan media outlet Jubi that approximately 20 houses in Tegelobak were burned during the operation; houses in the village of Ninggabuma were also reportedly destroyed. While some villagers sought temporary shelter in the surrounding forests and neighboring districts, an estimated 800 internally displaced persons (IDPs) reportedly fled to the village of Yenggernok, where they were sheltered in tents in front of the Gome offices of the Papua Tabernacle Church.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: There were increasing reports of mental health problems among refugees stranded in the country. In March, one asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had been living in a detention center for 19 years set himself on fire; in the same month, a second asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had spent four years in detention hanged himself.
In July approximately 200 refugees were relocated to a former military facility in West Jakarta. Rumors spread that those detained at this facility would receive additional assistance and priority treatment for possible resettlement, leading nearly 1,200 refugees to crowd into the facility. The facility lacked the sanitation and health-care facilities to accommodate the large number of refugees; the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and private donors provided emergency food assistance. In August the local government declared the site would be closed. As of October approximately 300 refugees remained at the site, but the government had discontinued providing support.
The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN refugee convention and does not allow local integration or naturalization. The government allows refugees to settle temporarily while awaiting permanent resettlement. The law formally acknowledges the role of UNHCR for processing all refugee status determinations in the country. A 2016 regulation established a detailed refugee management process, outlining the specific responsibilities of national and subnational agencies from refugee arrival to resettlement (or departure). UNHCR officials reported there were approximately 14,000 refugees in the country.
Employment: The government prohibits refugees from working, although it did not strictly enforce this prohibition.
Access to Basic Services: The government does not generally prohibit refugees from accessing public elementary education, although many barriers prevented enrollment of more than a small number of refugee children, including a lack of access for refugee children to government-issued student identification numbers. A small number of refugees enrolled in language and other classes in private, refugee-run schools or in NGO-sponsored programs. Refugees have access to basic public health services through local health clinics, which the government subsidizes. Treatment for more serious conditions or hospitalization, however, is not covered under this program.