Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution broadly provides for freedom of expression while including some limitations. Some elements within the government, judiciary, and police used laws against defamation and blasphemy to detain, prosecute, and convict individuals, and to restrict freedom of expression, including for the press. The government used laws against advocacy of separatism to restrict the ability of individuals to advocate peacefully for independence.
Freedom of Expression: The hate speech law criminalizes content deemed insulting to a religion or that advocates separatism. In practice the hate speech law could inhibit an individual’s freedom of speech and expression. In 2015 a circular letter on hate speech was released by then POLRI chief Badrodin Haiti. The circular defines hate speech as insult, libel, defamation, unpleasant acts, provocation, incitement, and dissemination of false news through media, internet, or person-to-person.
Elements within the government and society selectively cited criminal defamation laws in ways that intimidated people and restricted freedom of speech. For example, on September 6, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) reported journalist Dandhy Dwi Laksono for online defamation for a Facebook post in which he likened the PDI-P chairwoman and former president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to First State Counselor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, claiming both individuals mishandled internal conflicts.
In December 2016 police arrested 11 people for statements allegedly provoking crowds gathered for a protest against Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Police charged eight suspects with planning to commit treason, two under the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) law and one for defamation. According to police, the suspects planned to incite crowds to march towards the House of Representatives and occupy the building to compel impeachment of President Jokowi. All suspects denied the charges, and they were subsequently granted a conditional release (see section 6 for more details on the December 2016 protest).
Under the Blasphemy Law, “spreading religious hatred, heresy, and blasphemy” is punishable by up to five years in prison. Protests by Islamic groups or conservative clerical councils often prompted local authorities to take action under the law.
On March 7, the East Jakarta District Court convicted and sentenced to jail for blasphemy three senior leaders of the banned religious group, Gafatar. The court found that the leaders committed blasphemy because the group’s blending of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic doctrine “contradicts and offends Islamic values held by most Indonesian citizens.”
On May 9, a panel of judges for the North Jakarta District Court found Jakarta governor Ahok guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced him to two years in jail, concluding a five-month trial. In September 2016 Governor Ahok said during a campaign speech that it was wrong to manipulate verses from the Quran for political gain, angering some conservative clerics and Muslim leaders who alleged the remarks were blasphemous (see section 3).
Press and Media Freedom: The independent media was active and expressed a wide variety of views. The government, however, sometimes used regional and national regulations to restrict media. Some foreign journalists reportedly received visas for foreign travel to Papua and West Papua Provinces, while others reported bureaucratic delays or denials, ostensibly for safety reasons. Advocates for press freedom alleged that a governmental interagency group, including the TNI and intelligence services, continued to review requests by foreign journalists to visit the region. The constitution protects journalists from such 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 ($37,260).
Violence and Harassment: The Alliance of Independent Journalists reported 23 cases of violence directed at journalists and media offices between January and May.
In May a legal aid NGO reported that police intimidated local Papuan journalist Yance Wenda while in detention following the disbandment of a peaceful rally commemorating a key Papuan anniversary. Police allegedly forced Wenda to delete photos of the event from his device.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Attorney General’s Office has the authority to monitor written material and request a court order to ban written material. The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission has the authority to act as a regulator in public, private, and community institutions broadcasting.
Human rights activists reported that news portal Suara Papua, which was blocked by authorities in November 2016 for unspecified “negative content,” continues to be temporarily blocked without advance notification.
Although the Papua Special Autonomy Law permits flying a flag symbolizing Papua’s cultural identity, a government regulation prohibits the display of the Morning Star flag in Papua, the Republic of South Maluku flag in Maluku, and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) Crescent Moon flag in Aceh. The GAM flag remained a source of controversy since Aceh’s legislature passed a regulation making it the province’s official flag in 2013. The central government repeatedly declared it does not accept the provincial flag and that raising the GAM flag is prohibited.
Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation provisions of the criminal code prohibit libel and slander, which are punishable with five-year prison terms. On May 29, Bambang Tri Mulyono, the author of a book titled Jokowi Undercover was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly committing slander against President Jokowi in his book.
Nongovernmental Impact: Hardline Muslim groups sometimes intimidated perceived critics of Islam in order to limit their speech rights. The Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network reported dozens of cases of harassment of victims who allegedly insulted Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, who was arrested on pornography charges. For example, on May 28, FPI members were caught on video threatening and slapping a 15-year-old boy who had allegedly posted memes about Rizieq.
The government prosecuted individuals for free expression under the ITE Law. The law, which outlaws online crime, pornography, gambling, blackmail, lies, threats, and racism, prohibits citizens from distributing in electronic format any information that is defamatory and carries penalties of a maximum of six years in prison, a fine of IDR one billion ($74,500), or both.
According to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, approximately one-half of all Indonesians had internet access in 2016.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology continued to request that internet service providers (ISPs) block access to pornographic websites and other content deemed offensive. The ministry did not have the technology or capacity to block the websites in question itself. Enforcement of these restrictions depended upon individual ISPs, and a failure to enforce these restrictions could result in the revocation of an ISP’s license. The government also urged social media, search engines, and other websites and applications to block offensive and extremist content.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
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 hardliners seeking to restrict sensitive events and activities.
Local police in South Sulawesi stopped more than 600 transgender and gender-neutral people from holding an annual sports and culture event. The Bugis ethnic group recognizes five distinct genders and has hosted the event for 23 years. Local government initially approved the event after instructing organizers to drop several activities Muslims considered offensive; however, local police later cancelled the event. According to the Makassar Legal Aid Foundation, police requested identities, cell phone numbers, and other personal details about all event participants. Organizers were unable to comply with this request because the event did not entail advance registration. Police told media they had no choice but to cancel the event due to complaints from the Soppeng branch of the Islamic Community Forum.
During the year, the government-supervised Film Censorship Institute continued to censor domestic and imported movies for content deemed pornographic and religiously or otherwise offensive.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The law requires demonstrators to provide police with a written notification three days before any planned demonstration and for 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 receipts of notification to would-be demonstrators on the grounds that the demonstrations would likely involve calls for independence, an act that is prohibited under the same law. Papua provincial police issued a decree in July 2016 prohibiting rallies by seven organizations labeled as proindependence groups, including the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and the Free Papua Movement. There were fewer large-scale Papua-related demonstrations during the year than in 2016.
On May 1, police dispersed a KNPB rally in Sentani, Papua, commemorating Papua Annexation Day, and reportedly detained 200 people, the majority of whom were released the following day. Local media reported the detention of 77 people in Merauke on May 31 after police disrupted a meeting of KNPB’s Merauke branch.
The government and hardline groups often prevented civil society from holding events discussing the 1965-66 anticommunist purges due to the sensitivity of the issue. Police rejected some civil society requests to hold events on this topic, and shut down several such events during the year. Media and international NGOs reported that the district military command assisted police in some of the reported cases. Hardline groups also disrupted events on this topic during the year. For example, on September 18 protesters gathered outside the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation’s (LBH) office as the organization was hosting an event on the 1965-66 anticommunist purges. Law enforcement disbanded the event after protests turned violent and prevented LBH staff from departing the premises.
LGBTI NGOs operated openly, but in public places they frequently held low-key events because the licenses or permits required for holding registered events were difficult to obtain.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution and laws provide for freedom of association, which the government generally respected.
By law, 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 MOUs to block their registration status, although a cumbersome bureaucracy within the Ministry of Law and Human Rights was also to blame.
On October 24, the DPR approved the regulation-in-lieu-of-law (perppu) signed by President Jokowi on July 10 that revises the 2013 Law on Mass Organizations and allows the state to disband mass organizations deemed intolerant or threatening to national unity. The regulation shifts the process for disbanding mass organizations directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights instead of the judiciary. The regulation expands the definition of what group activities may be considered in violation of the 1945 Constitution and national ideology of Pancasila and introduces new jail sentences for those who violate the 2013 law. Although the human rights community has long pressed the government to take action against intolerant groups, many activists opposed the regulation, arguing it infringes on rights of expression and assembly. On July 11, the government formally revoked the legal status of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an organization advocating the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. During the year the Constitutional Court was considering seven petitions filed to challenge the perppu.
Some LGBTI advocacy groups reported encountering difficulties when attempting to register their organizations.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at 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 military forces 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.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
In-country Movement: Restrictions on foreign journalists travelling to Papua and West Papua Provinces remained (see section 2.a.).
Foreign Travel: The government prevented arrivals and departures at the request of police, the Attorney General’s Office, the KPK, and the Ministry of Finance. Some of those barred from entering and leaving were delinquent taxpayers, convicted or indicted persons, individuals implicated in corruption cases, and persons otherwise involved in legal disputes.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
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 makes it difficult to estimate reliably the total number of IDPs.
The international NGO Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported that between January 1 and June 30, 146,000 people were displaced by disaster and 60 by conflict. More than 300 Shia residents from Madura remained housed on the outskirts of Surabaya after communal violence forced them from their homes in 2012. Despite numerous reconciliation attempts by the central government, officials have not effectively resolved issues with the hardliners who refused to allow the displaced Shia to return to their homes. Approximately 200 Ahmadi Muslims remained internally displaced in apartments in Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara, after a mob expelled them from their Lombok village in 2006.
The law stipulates the government must ensure “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.”
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Refoulement: In December the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, an international advocacy organization, requested authorities to delay the deportation of four Vietnamese migrants, whom the group claimed were asylum seekers. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights told local media the four were considered irregular migrants who had violated immigration laws. Near year’s end a public determination on whether the migrants’ deportation constituted refoulement was yet to be made.
Access to Asylum: The country is not party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, and it does not have a refugee or asylum status determination system. UNHCR processes all claims for refugee status in the country. The government does not accept refugees for resettlement or facilitate local integration or naturalization. Authorities refer migrants seeking to return to their country of origin to the IOM for access to its Assisted Voluntary Return Program.
In December 2016 President Jokowi signed a presidential decree on refugee management outlining the specific roles and responsibilities of government ministries and local authorities, including on search and rescue, shelter, security, and immigration. The decree also named the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs as the lead on refugee issues. As of August there were 7,248 asylum seekers and 6,590 refugees registered with UNHCR. Some were applicants and others were dependents. More than one-half of the refugees or asylum seekers were from Afghanistan, followed by 11 percent from Somalia, 6 percent each for Burma and Iraq, as well as smaller numbers from other countries of origin. Approximately 3,500 refugees and asylum seekers, including women and children, resided in immigration detention centers or temporary accommodations under the supervision of immigration authorities. Overcrowding was a perennial issue with immigration detention centers, and overall quality of accommodations varied widely depending on the center. An additional 30 percent lived in community boarding houses through the assistance of IOM. The remaining active persons of concern lived independently in UNHCR or donor-sponsored community homes administered by NGOs.
Employment: The government prohibited 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, though many barriers have 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.