President Joko Widodo's statement that expected the public would openly criticize the Government on National Press Day summons various community opinions. This statement later then causes several opinions to emerge.
Although it was indicated by good intention, the community still was not convenient to implement because they still count to Law No. 11 of 2008 concerning Electronic Information and Transactions. There are articles in the law that are considered catchall articles and matters to criminalization.
Nyarwi Ahmad, Ph.D., a communication expert from Universitas Gadjah Mada, appraised that the community has implemented this kind of criticism through social media or electronic/online media. Regrettably, the ITE Law's presence is risky because several articles, such as article 27 paragraph 3 of article 28 paragraphs 1 and 2, are considered catchall articles.
Nyarwi suggested that there should be clarity about the hatred boundaries that covered what kind of outrage and lies. Because of these catchall articles, people are hesitant to criticize them.
"The thing is, to what extent does this article define criticism, what is the difference between criticism and hate speech, what is the difference between criticism and scattering lies. I believe the operational definition is very important to make people easier to understand what criticism actually is," he said at the UGM Faculty of Social and Political Communication Department on Wednesday (17/2).
If President Joko Widodo's statement during the National Press Day drives efforts to revise the ITE Law, Nyarwi counted it as a good step. Some of the reasons are that it can avoid multiple interpretations of its article meaning and avoid people's worries about evaluating the president's performance as the head of the state and all institutional leaders.
Nyarwi also said that regarding whether the revision was the best option or not, it is still possible because laws are made based on the momentum era and the needs.
"Government had already revised the ITE Law once in 2015. Kominfo submitted a revision, and the revision itself was considered quite progressive back then. We cannot directly complain as an offense to punish people from 6 years to 4 years. There must be a party who reports it or at least the related party," he said.
According to Nyarwi, criticism in a democracy is important because criticism can refresh, improve and renew government policies to be perfect and optimal in their works in order to be effective. Hence, the community needs to engage in the form of criticism.
Nevertheless, another thing that is necessary to be considered is the climate or democratic ecosystem that can appropriately elevate criticism and be conveyed properly. This condition is due to critics without arguments and without data not considered as criticism but mockery.
"Once again, this means that there should be an evaluation on the definition of the differences between criticism and non-criticism so there will not be multiple interpretations appeared and there must be an accommodation within regulations," he explained.
For Nyarwi, if a good and healthy ecosystem appeared within a democracy, there would also be healthy various public discussions and criticisms that can likely improve the government and state apparatus's performance. Accordingly, there must be an evaluation of the definition of criticism because criticism is considered freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution.
"So there will be protection and safety to those who convey their opinions or criticisms. It is fallacious if there is no clear regulation and it becomes a catchall article, and then it creates a gap of interpretation that makes people quiet. I think it is less profitable," he explained.
Nyarwi expected that a culture of good and healthy critical ethics would emerge. The elites are also expected to have a tradition of accepting or listening to criticism because criticism is a proper medium to evaluate their plans of ideas.
"That's how to strengthen our democratic system. Suppose this statement is an entry point for revision. In that case, it can also be a forum to clarify the definition of criticism and how it differs from hoax news, incitement, hate speech, and others. "Criticize is considered the community right to speak up and be protected by the 1945 Constitution. Hence, the House of Representatives of Republic Indonesia must accommodate the community's voice in the proper way of criticism, not the wrong one," he added.
Author: Agung Nugroho
Translator: Natasa A