National

Ministry to revise draconian
ITE Law

The Communications and Information Ministry has decided to revise the libel articles in the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law to make it less severe on the country’s budding online communities.

“We have sent the draft revisions on the ITE Law to the House of Representatives and the draft has been included in the 2014 national legislation program,” the ministry’s director general for informatics applications, Ashwin Sasongko, said on Monday.

He added that the government would revise Article 27 of the ITE Law, which provides for a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment for defamation. “We will adjust Article 27 and also Article 45 of the ITE Law to bring it into line with Article 310 of the Criminal Code [KUHP] on defamation,” he said.

He said that in the draft revisions, the maximum punishment for people convicted of defamation would be reduced from six years to nine months’ imprisonment.

Ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto said the government would also amend Article 27 of the ITE Law so that not every person who expressed his or her opinion on the Internet could be easily subjected to legal sanctions.

Articles 27 and 45 of the ITE Law stipulate that anyone found guilty of using electronic media, including social networks, to intimidate or defame others could be liable to six years in prison and a fine of up to Rp 1 billion (US$105,000).

Meanwhile, Article 310 of the KUHP on defamation stipulates that anyone deliberately attacking the dignity or good name of another by accusing them of certain actions, with the intention to publicize the allegations, can be subject to a maximum of nine months’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of Rp 4,500.

Law enforcers have used the ITE Law to charge people accused of defaming others on the web, including on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Netizens thus facing harsh legal sanctions for their online activities.

According to data from the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, 11 people have been subjected to punitive measures since the implementation of the ITE Law in 2008.

In September 2013, editor-in-chief of online media site Nias-Bangkit.com, Donny Iswandono, was slapped with a defamation charge after writing an article on corruption on South Nias, North Sumatra. Donny explained that he had asked the governor of South Nias for confirmation but got no response.

In August 2013, a 45-year-old notary, Johan Yan, who is a Facebook user, was also charged with libel for commenting on Facebook about the indication of corruption at the Bethany Church in Surabaya, East Java.

In 2010, a former doctor at the Tangerang General Hospital, Ira Simatupang, was sentenced to five months in prison for libel by the Tangerang District Court. Ira had tried to report sexual abuse by one of her colleagues at the hospital, but she did not have enough evidence.

A year later, in 2010, she wrote emails on the abuse to her colleagues and superiors at the hospital. The doctor, whom she accused of sexual abuse, reported her for defamation. Ira was then dismissed from her job. (tam)

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