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Jakarta Post

Criminal Code revision puts free speech in jeopardy

  • Nany Afrida

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, February 29, 2016   /  06:59 am

After drawing criticism for a plan to make defaming presidents a crime, the government may open the door to more criticism for its planned amendment to the Criminal Code (KUHP). The government'€™s amendment contains more articles limiting freedom of speech.

The Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers) revealed on Sunday that the government'€™s draft revision contained many new articles that were obscurantist and carried double meanings. It recorded 65 articles in the draft text related to free speech, higher than the current 35 articles in the existing KUHP.

LBH Pers research and networking division head Asep Komaruddin said that the use of words such as '€œhostile statement'€ or '€œinsulted in front of public'€ would make interpretation difficult.

'€œCertain people will take benefit from these words due to the possibility of multiple interpretations,'€ Asep told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The institute also criticized the severe punishment outlined for defamation, which can reach up to five years in prison. The existing KUHP stipulates that the maximum punishment for the crime of defamation is only one year in prison.

'€œThe article on defamation will be very dangerous and it should not be put in the draft because anyone can be victimized as the government does not include a clear definition of what constitutes defamation,'€ Asep said.

Last year, the government submitted a draft that contained a proposal to make insulting a president or a vice president a crime.

The plan drew the ire of the public because similar articles were previously scrapped by the Constitutional Court in 2006.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said later that the government would compromise and take the position that defamation would only be considered a crime if a president or vice president reported the case to the police.

The KUHP amendment is among this year'€™s legislative priorities. President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo has issued a decree informing legislators that the government was ready to discuss the bill, along with the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP).

Asep said the latest KUHP revision that the institute was observing still contained 12 articles related to defamation.

Other contentious proposals are articles 481 and 482 that penalize someone for spreading information on contraception and abortion.

'€œWhat is the reason for this article? Is it for the sake of public morality? The government should give their reasons and declare their interests,'€ Asep said.

Legal analyst Margarito Kamis told the Post that the government should include clear definitions in the new KUHP.

'€œThe terminology should have a single definition so people will not take advantages of it for their own ends and oppress minorities,'€ he said.

He said people might have different points of view on some things, so the government should work to more effectively protect the public sphere.

Margarito believed that the revision of the KUHP would bring about positive results for Indonesia'€™s legal system because it would accommodate new trends.

Revisions to the KUHP and the KUHAP stalled for years while the House of Representatives sought input from legal experts, legal watchdogs and academics. Among the contentious revisions is a clause that would limit the ability of judges to impose the death penalty in some cases.

Arsul Sani, a legislator from House Commission III overseeing legal affairs, said the House was still working on the KUHP draft revision, which contains two books. Book I contains articles 1 to 218, while book II contains articles 219 to 786.

'€œWe have discussed half of Book I already. In the last three weeks, the government still redefined some articles and their explanation after the House gave its input,'€ he said.

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