The Jakarta Post
After a recent rise in cases concerning freedom of expression throughout the country, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) has called on the government to guarantee the protection of citizens who express their thoughts publicly.
With reference to the case of Alexander Aan, a Minang [an ethnic group from West Sumatra] civil servant who was arrested for blasphemy after he declared himself an atheist on social media in 2012, Wahyudi Djafar, a lawyer from ELSAM said Thursday that freedom of expression is a basic human right and it should not be restricted by the government.
'He is suspected of spreading blasphemy because he publicly declared himself an atheist. That is part of his faith and his manifestation where he should be respected since they are his beliefs,' Wahyudi said after the launching of ELSAM's book about freedom of expression.
Concerning the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) law, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher Syamsudin Haris said the revision of the ITE law should be more concerned with protecting the public's right to express their thoughts.
'The law should not be used by people who want to criminalize others for expressing their opinion,' Syamsudin said.
ELSAM also demanded the lawmaker to revoke the conventional criminal act's punishment outlined in the law.
'The ITE law is regulated for internet users while the punishment of the conventional criminal act has been regulated in the Criminal Code,' Wahyudi said.
Seperately, on the threats addressed to the venue of a recent film screening ' the documentary Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta, the commissioner of National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Roichatul Aswidah, said the police were afraid that there would be a riot after the screening.
'We watched the movie in our office and nothing happened. We can prove to the police that no harm came upon the audience,' she said.
The film is a political documentary about former political prisoners who come back to Buru Island, Maluku, a place where alleged Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members who were involved in the 1965 abortive coup were held captive.
'If it doesn't contain violence, an opinion or film screening shouldn't be banned,' Roichatul said.
Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) executive director Kuskridho Ambardi said there are some reasons that might cause the police to react to events relating to communism.
'People who come to the event can influence whether it is canceled or not. For example, the discussion about the Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta film at the faculty of social and political science in Gadjah Mada University was not canceled because the director general of culture was present at the event,' he said.
Kuskridho added that social media could influence an event being canceled. He gave an example of an unofficial poster of a theater that went viral on social media portraying two women kissing.
'The public thought it was LGBT promotion, became angry and wanted to ban the theater. But in fact, the story was not about LGBT at all. ' (wnd)