Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
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 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 and could inhibit an individual’s freedom of speech and expression. A 2015 police 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, in North Sumatra the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) reported a 21-year-old Christian student for a Facebook post that likened the Prophet Muhammad to a pig, resulting in the Medan district court sentencing the student to four years in prison for committing hate speech.
Under the 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 take action under the law.
On August 21, a Buddhist woman of Chinese descent was sentenced to 18 months in prison for complaining about the volume of loudspeakers at a mosque in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra. Vice President Kalla and leading Muslim organizations subsequently spoke out against the verdict, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a circular with guidelines on how and when the Islamic call to prayer should be broadcast by mosques.
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 permits for travel to Papua and West Papua provinces, while others reported bureaucratic delays or denials, ostensibly for safety reasons. In February authorities expelled an Australian journalist from Papua Province’s Asmat district after the journalist uploaded a critical social media post of a photo of instant noodles and sweet biscuits reportedly supplied by the government in response to a child malnutrition crisis. 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 ($34,300).
Violence and Harassment: The Alliance of Independent Journalists reported 34 cases of violence directed at journalists and media offices between January and April.
In May a video circulated online of two police officers in Papua’s Nabire district physically assaulting Papuan journalist Abraham Amoye You and civil servant Mando Mote during a political debate in advance of the June 27 regional executive elections.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Attorney General’s Office has authority to monitor written material and request a court order to ban written material. The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission has authority to act as a regulator in public, private, and community institutions’ broadcasts.
Human rights activists reported that news portal Suara Papua, which authorities blocked in 2016 for unspecified “negative content,” continued to be temporarily and intermittently 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 Molucca, and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) Crescent Moon flag in Aceh. The central government repeatedly declared it does not accept the provincial flag and that the raising of 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. Journalist Muhammad Yusuf died of an apparent heart attack in June after spending five weeks in detention on defamation charges related to a series of articles he had written on local land issues involving a major palm oil company.
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 leader Rizieq Shihab, whom authorities arrested on pornography charges.
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 ($68,600), or both.
According to the country’s internet service providers (ISP) association, there are approximately 143 million internet users in the country, a 6 percent increase from 2017.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology continued to request that ISPs block access to pornographic websites and other content deemed offensive. 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.
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.
In early July government security personnel in Malang (East Java) and Surabaya disbanded a Papuan Students Alliance (AMP)-organized film screening and a peaceful discussion organized by the AMP to commemorate a sensitive human rights anniversary, respectively.
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.
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 because the demonstrations would likely include calls for independence, an act that is prohibited under the same law. Papua provincial police issued a decree in 2016 prohibiting rallies by seven organizations labeled as proindependence groups, including the National Committee of West Papua, 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 previous years.
On April 5, police from Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura raided a University of Cenderawasih dormitory that police alleged was a venue for a separatist declaration, rounding up at least 44 students for their involvement in the event. Police later released all of them except for three who they held on unrelated charges.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
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 an 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.
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 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.
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 the country 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 made it difficult to estimate reliably the total number of 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.”
The National Disaster Management Authority reported that from January through October, 3,548 persons died or were missing and more than 3,057,787 were displaced by natural disasters.
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 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.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
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.
A government regulation on refugee management outlines the specific roles and responsibilities of government ministries and local authorities, including on search and rescue, shelter, security, and immigration; the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs has the lead on refugee issues. In April provincial authorities in Aceh granted access to UNHCR to conduct refugee status determinations for two groups of Rohingya migrants whom authorities rescued off the coast of Aceh. Local authorities provided them shelter and essential supplies, as well as health and psychosocial services, in line with the government’s refugee management decree. Donations from the local community and assistance from the IOM supplemented provincial and local support.
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.