Indonesia: Electronic system registration policy threatens press freedom

The Indonesian government will begin blocking private electronic systems operators that fail to register their platforms by July 27, despite concerns from members of civil society that the policy restricts press freedom. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and its affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, urge the government to withdraw the policy and ensure press freedom in Indonesia.

An Indonesian activist takes part in a rally in front of the Ministry of Communication and Information office in Jakarta on August 23, 2019, demanding the government to unblock internet access to Papua and West Papua. Credit: Dasril Roszandi / AFP

The Ministry of Communication and Information (Kominfo) has mandated that foreign and domestic digital technology platforms to register with the government under the private electronic systems policy (Permenkominfo 5/2020), extending the deadline from July 21 to July 27. The policy applies to major technology platforms, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, as well as news websites.

Failure to comply with the registration will lead to the blocking of digital technology services, with many major platforms registering to avoid the shutdown.

On July 19 , Kominfo director general for applications and informatics, Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, said electronic system operators who do have not registered by the date will have sanctions imposed in stages before being shut down.

AJI Indonesia said the mandatory registration is not solely for administrative purposes but also an attempt from the authorities to intervene and censor online platforms, with at least four controversial articles in the policy threatening press freedom.

Articles 9 (3) and (4) state that private electronic systems should not distribute forbidden information, such as content against current regulations, public incitement, and promoting or encouraging civil unrest.

According to AJI, the arbitrary ‘public incitement’ criteria could potentially impact content that criticises the government or law enforcement and could be used to censor the distribution of content regarding human rights violations, such as the coverage of minority groups reporting on criminal activity.

Articles 21 and 36 also allow the government or law enforcement to access the electronic systems and data from digital technology platforms.

The policy does not include independent evaluation of content and there is also option for public appeal.

AJI said: “AJI calls on the authorities to drop the policy and demands the government to protect press freedom and the freedom of expression. AJI also asks journalists and media to remain critical in guarding a number of regulations which can hamper press freedom.”

The IFJ said: “Online media must be able to publish content without restrictive regulation and censorship policies. The IFJ condemns the enactment of the private electronic systems registration policy and urges the Indonesian government to repeal the legislation.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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