Indonesia Pledges to Consult on Controversial Secrecy Bill

16 December 2011

The Indonesia government plans to discuss a controversial state secrecy bill with its opponents, according to a report in The Jakarta Globe.

Under the bill, the disclosure of classified material is punishable by prison terms of three-four years plus fines, depending on the level of classification. Critics say the definition of what constitutes a state secret is far too broad.

The bill includes carries heavy jail terms for journalists and gives the government the right to close media organizations.

“Agus Brotosusilo, a ministerial adviser working on the bill, said on Sunday [Dec. 11] that it was hoped discussions could begin as early as next month,” according to the newspaper report by Markus Junianto Sihaloho.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delayed passage of the proposed bill, which has drawn considerable opposition, according to the Globe.

“Agus mentioned prominent activists opposed to the previous bill — Agus Sudibyo from the Science, Aesthetic and Technology Foundation, lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, anti-corruption activist Teten Masduki, human rights activist Usman Hamid and prominent sociologist Daniel Dhakidae — and said the ministry had attempted to address their concerns in the new draft,” according to the Globe report.

“Agus Sudibyo, however, criticized the new approach on Sunday,” the Globe continued. “He said the government should invite the activists to participate in drafting the bill and not simply allow them to comment on a finished draft.”

In the previous week, the Defense Ministry criticized a statement by activists and the Press Council calling the recall of the State Secrecy Bill, “saying that no one should try to influence public opinion to prevent the bill’s passage by exploiting other issues,” the Globe reported.

Indonesia is a member of the steering committee of the Global TransparencyInitiative.

The Centre for Law and Democracy and Yayasan SET Dec. 6 called on the Indonesian government to drop the proposal.

“The access to information law only came into force recently and yet there have been consistent attempts for several years to introduce a secrecy law,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. “The priority now should be to implement the access to information law. If, once this has happened, a real need is demonstrated for a secrecy law, this could be considered at that time.”

“The definition of state secrecy is too broad and can be interpreted in numerous ways. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the definition in the Bill is not complete and relies on other laws and regulations to understand it well,” said Agus Sudibyo, Deputy Director of SET Foundation, Jakarta. “If the Bill is not improved, it will undermine the institutionalisation of good governance, the eradication of corruption and the right to information in Indonesia. The Public Information Disclosure Act already provides sufficient protection to state secrecy in Indonesia.”

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