Indonesia's Democracy Emergency: Press and Activists Vulnerable to Attacks in Jokowi's Regime


The incident of persecution experienced by Tempo journalist, Nurhadi, Saturday, March 27th, 2021, is the latest in a series of attacks received by journalists or human rights activists.

This abuse occurred when Nurhadi carried out an assignment from the editor of Tempo Magazine to cover the former Director of Inspection of the Directorate General of Taxes at the Ministry of Finance, Angin Prayitno Aji, who became a suspect in the tax bribery case.

When attending the wedding reception for Angin's children, which was held at the Graha Samudera Bumimoro Building, Nurhadi was intimidated, imprisoned, mistreated and tortured by Angin guards as well as Indonesian National Soldier (TNI) and police officers. In fact, Nurhadi's cell phone was also confiscated, and he was forced to accept “compensation money” and threatened to stop reporting.

In a monitoring from LBH Press, the number of violence against journalists increased dramatically throughout 2020, with 117 cases of violence from 79 cases in 2019. Monitoring of AJI (Aliansi of Independent Journalists) Indonesia also showed similar results with 78 cases recorded throughout 2020, an increase from 58 cases. in 2019, with the highest figure since 2016.

These findings are in line with Imparsial's media monitoring of attacks on human rights defenders.

Human rights defenders are parties who carry out activities related to human rights advocacy, and they can come from various backgrounds: from demonstrators, students, journalists, activists, to residents in agrarian conflicts.

Imparsial noted that in 2019 and 2020, there was a drastic increase in the number of attacks against human rights defenders, with 38 and 41 cases compared to 11 cases in 2018 and 16 cases in 2017. These attacks took the form of criminalization, persecution, intimidation, digital attacks, and even murder. . Ironically, more than half of the perpetrators of this attack came from government institutions (Police with 42%, TNI 9.3%, state officials and Satpol PP 10%).

This increase was caused by various factors: the number of demonstrations that were disbanded with excessive violence, the rise of criminalization with rubber articles such as the ITE Law, the number of agrarian conflicts that were driven by an unfair development perspective, the emergence of digital attacks as a new form of attack, and – supported by data from LBH Press and AJI – increasing attacks on press workers.

Journalistic work is actually closely related to the fulfillment of the public's right to information and freedom of expression, especially when it relates to public issues such as the issue of corruption. So the increasing number of attacks on the press and human rights activists in general is a worrying symptom that the Jokowi administration has been increasingly repressive towards criticism, or at least failed to build a climate that is friendly to criticism, and often takes positions that are contrary to human rights.

So we, from the Coalition for Human Rights Defenders, are calling for:

  • The police and judiciary must follow up on the case of the persecution of journalist Nurhadi fairly and seriously, and prevent the impunity that is rife in cases of attacks on human rights defenders.
  • Encouraging protection and respect for journalistic work that has been protected in the Press Law, in order to guarantee the human rights of the public to obtain information.
  • Encouraging the revision of problematic laws that are often used to hinder the work of human rights defenders, including the ITE Law.
  • Encouraging the revision of the Human Rights Law to give recognition to the work of human rights defenders and affirmation of the state's obligations in protecting human rights defenders, including when it is intertwined with journalistic work.
  • The Press Council must take up its role as a protective institution for press work in Indonesia by taking a firm stance and carrying out serious advocacy to prevent torture and violence against the press.

THE COALITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (LBH Press, AJI Indonesia, Imparsial, Elsam, Amnesty Indonesia, Kontras, Walhi Papua, Srikandi Lestari Foundation, Heritage Bentala Rakyat Foundation, AJI Surabaya, Alliance Against Violence Against Journalists)

Jakarta, March 30th, 2021

en_GBEnglish (UK)