Indonesian govt urged to uphold human rights in regulating Internet

Ina Parlina in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - A coalition of Indonesian civil society groups wants the government to focus on human rights at an international conference on Internet governance in Bali Island in October.

Indonesia has been slated to host the 8th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) from October 21 to 25.

The IGF is a series of policy dialogues on Internet governance, bringing together stakeholders, governments, the private sector and NGOs.

A representative of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), which is a member group of the Indonesian CSO Network for Internet Governance (ID-Config), raised concerns on an increasing number of incidents of illegal filtering and content blocking on the Internet that have hampered the freedom of expression in Indonesia.

Elsam executive director Indriaswati D. Saptaningrum said that the public must ensure that the IGF considered human rights when managing the Internet, adding that she hoped that the forum would help the government to better shape its Internet policies.

"There are targets for both the government and the private sector to accelerate the increase in the number of Internet users in Indonesia," Indriaswati said. "But if regulations are not considered seriously, the impact will be dangerous for our rights."

Indriaswati cited the case of the so-called Minang Atheist, Alexander Aan, who was sentence to two-and-a-half-years' imprisonment years for blasphemy after he declared himself an atheist on Facebook and the case of Prita Mulyasari, a housewife sued by a hospital for libel after she sent private emails to several friends complaining about the service she received there.

Indriaswati said that Elsam agreed that not all Internet users in Indonesia understood the potential of the Internet or its risks.

"However, public participation in the cyberspace should be given enough space. What we need is the protection of the Internet users, not user restrictions by tapping or limiting content."

Moreover, Indonesia had no clear regulations on content filtering, she said.

"So much content is blocked. The government argues the content is related to porn, violence or even possesses threat to security."

In its "2012 Freedom on the Net" report, US-based Freedom House gave Indonesia a rating of 42 out of 100, an increase from 46 points in 2011. A lower score means more Internet freedom. The report evaluated conditions in 47 nations based on barriers to access, limits on content and violations of user rights.

Indriaswati also raised the issue of selling personal data on the Internet. "There are so many SMS for product promotions, although we never give them our numbers."

According to Elsam, the only one article in the 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction Law covered personal data management, albeit inadequately.

Meanwhile, Ashwin Sasongko of the Communications and Information Ministry, rebuffed criticism that the ministry had failed to promulgate the existing 2008 Law.

"Cyber-ethics are supposed to be in line with the ones in real world. If people cannot curse people in the real world, they should not do it in cyberspace. We all have to stick to such norms," he said.

Wahyudi Djafar of Elsam said that if Ashwin was correct, human rights protections must also cover the Internet, as stated in a UN Human Rights Council resolution.

In mid-2012, the council released a resolution that stated that "the rights people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".