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RSF urges candidates to commit to taking measures enhancing press freedom

RSF urges Indonesian election candidates to prioritize press freedom, calling for journalist safety, open access in West Papua, defamation law reform, anti-disinformation measures, and enhanced media literacy in education.

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Jakarta, Indonesia – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a significant plea to candidates of the upcoming 14 February 2024 Indonesian general election, emphasizing the urgent need for a commitment to press freedom and comprehensive media reforms.

As Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, prepares for its presidential and legislative elections, the focus turns to its 205 million eligible voters.

RSF’s call for action is directed at key presidential candidates, including Anies Baswedan and his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar from the Coalition of Change for Unity; Ganjar Pranowo and Mahfud MD from the Alliance of Political Parties Supporting Ganjar Pranowo; and the current defence minister, Prabowo Subianto, with Gibran Rakabuming from the Advanced Indonesia Coalition.

Cédric Alviani, the RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director, criticized the outgoing president Joko Widodo’s tenure, noting a series of unfulfilled promises concerning press freedom. Alviani urges all candidates to ensure the safety of journalists and to end the misuse of defamation laws, underscoring these as vital steps towards bolstering Indonesian democracy.

Challenges in the Indonesian Media Landscape

Despite being a vibrant hub of around a hundred thousand journalists, Indonesia’s media landscape is marred by challenges. Journalists frequently face violence, intimidation, and societal taboos on sensitive topics like gender identity. Notable incidents include the imprisonment of Muhammad Asrul in 2021 for defamation after exposing corruption and the arson attack on journalist Weren Timo’s house following his reports on illegal gambling.

A particularly troubling situation persists in West Papua, where reporting on the military’s actions against the Papuan separatist movement is severely restricted. Despite President Widodo’s election promises, an effective information blackout and internet censorship continue to hamper journalistic freedom in the region.

RSF’s Recommendations for the Future of Indonesian Press Freedom

RSF’s proposals to the candidates include:

  1. Ensuring Journalist Safety: Protect journalists from violence, pressure, and harassment, and prosecute those responsible for such crimes.
  2. Opening West Papua to Reporters: Guarantee unhindered access to West Papua for journalists and ensure open and secure internet access in the region.
  3. Reforming Defamation Laws: Amend the Information and Electronic Transactions Law to eliminate prison sentences and exorbitant fines for defamation, and protect journalists from gagging proceedings.
  1. Regulating Disinformation: Implement measures against disinformation that align with international freedom of expression standards, including judicial review processes for content management by governments and online platforms.
  2. Promoting Media Literacy: Integrate critical thinking and media literacy into academic curricula and public education, teaching children to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Currently, Indonesia stands at 108th out of 180 countries in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index. While Indonesian law nominally supports press freedom, these recommended reforms aim to translate principle into practice, ensuring a robust and free media environment crucial for the health of its democracy.

RSF, known internationally as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), is a globally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding the right to freedom of information. Founded in 1985 in Montpellier, France, RSF has since become a principal voice in the advocacy for press freedom and the protection of journalists around the world.

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