The Issuance of Cyber Law a Threat to Indonesian Blogger

watching: National Treasure
tags: politics


The government of Indonesia is finally to issue the Cyber Law after two years going back and forth discussing the matter. This law apparently has hauled some rather strong reactions from some of the Indonesian bloggers, especially those who attended the meeting held by the British Council on Friday, 4 April 2008.

Blogger Enda Nasution warned the Indonesian bloggers to be more careful in their choice of content uploaded on their journal as it might be considered sensitive by certain groups. Even a simple linking to a website with a defamation content can get a blogger in trouble, he told the Jakarta Post.

But how do we define a libel? How do we know when a statement is offensive or abusive when it seems like people have different standpoints of the degrees of how a matter should be expressed? But that is just the key point, isn't it? Different standpoints. Different opinions. Isn't that what makes this world such an interesting place to live?

After two years of deliberation, the House of Representatives passed the Electronic Information and Transaction Law last month, which prohibits citizens from distributing slander in any electronic format. Perpetrators can get a maximum of six years in prison or a fine of Rp 1 billion (US$107,526). The law also prohibits any kind of pornography, gambling, blackmail, lies, threats and racist comments.

More questions:

How do you differentiate pornography and art? That is an ongoing forever debate all over the world, and still... it is in the grey area where you keep being confused about it. For me personally, it needs not be defined in any way extreme for it is so abstract and it always comes back to the viewer's background (culture, religion, economy condition, etc.) and perception over things.

Racist comments.

This is hard. I mean maybe almost everyone reading this may have agreed with me that racism shouldn't ever exist. But almost everyone reading this may have made at least one racist comment or joke on something that is stereotypical. Most of the time, they would have been ever much funnier when you were making fun of your own race. So how to define a comment is racial and abusive?

I've gone through some occasions in my life where I felt so abused by statements that were delivered politely and decorated beautifully with very nice words. But I knew the real meaning underlying all of them were not to praise me at all. In fact, it was meant to put me down. So is this kind of statement not abusive merely because it is stated in the polite manner? I know enough cases where someone uses racist or sensitive words in a statement, it does not necessarily mean literally the same way it sounds. And the real point is usually taken rightly.

So again, grey area.

Some bloggers, including Raditya Dika, deleted some posts on their blogs so that they would not get the bad impact of the bill. Really, as a person who often makes honest and sharp (yes I have to admit it) comments over basically various aspects in life like me, I couldn't agree with the bill passed. I may even get a problem by having this uploaded. But where is the freedom of speech that we claim to have after Soeharto stepped down from his throne? I thought we were proud of being one of the nations in South East Asia that could voice ourselves the most. First the youtube was blocked due to the wide circulation of Fitna the movie in the site. Now this.

I am very concerned that Indonesia is going backwards in terms of this freedom of speech. I mean what can you really expect from the Indonesian lawmakers who slept during the President's speech on important subjects of the people's lives? Of course these bupatis who irresponsibly did this are not those who issued the law we are talking about. But they are an example.

And clearly Ibu Siti Fadilah Supari, Indonesian Minister of Health, has expressed and used her right in the freedom of speech to the highest by accusing WHO stealing the Bird Flu sample and not benefiting the sample giver country (us). I am surprised that she did not get any warning concerning her book titled "Time For The World To Change, The Hand Of God In Bird Flu", which more or less putting the United States of America and WHO in the corner of a rather baseless (maybe it's right, but not much fact revealed) accusation in this bird flu sample case.

But oh, I forgot. Of course she didn't get banned. It was A BOOK. Not a BLOG. And what again? She's a minister. An Indonesian high profile person.

So despite the Communication and Information Minister, Muhammad Nuh's diplomatic comment on Indonesian bloggers are not enemy, but family, he still licensed the law to be passed.

The inconsistency that exists among the ministers is the one that probably triggered the hacking of some minister's and parties website.

Hackers on Thursday posted a message on the information ministry's Web site ( saying: "Prove that the law has not been made to cover government stupidity."


All in all, as a big time blogger, I feel rather threatened, too. And if by a mere linking to a website that contains a defamation is considered wrong, while our real purpose is to inform people of the existing happening in the society, how can we possibly be knowledgeable and aware of what is going on in our own country? How can we contribute our voice in this kind of medium? How else can we be a good but critical citizen of the Republic of Indonesia?

I really hope President Yudhoyono is not signing that proposed bill.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, Indonesia is going backwards in many aspects of life. I am sad to hear one of the very basic rights, the freedom to speak, is going to be banned.