Indon journos challenge OSA-like secrets law
Journalists face 10 years’ jail for using classified govt papers
‘Broad and vague definition of secrets threatens press freedom’
Journalists and other activists have filed a constitutional challenge in Jakarta against a new law on state intelligence and official secrets under which journalists could face up to 10 years’ jail if they used or cited classified government documents for scrutiny or criticism of public institutions.
The challenge has been mounted by the Alliance of Independent Journalists, four NGOs — IMPARSIAL, ELSAM, YLBHI, and Perkumpulan Masyarakat Setara &amdash; and 13 Indonesian nationals, all members of the Coalition of the Advocacy of Law on State Intelligence.
The State Intelligence Law was signed into law by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Nov 7. The journalists and fellow activists believe the law violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and information.
AJI president Eko Maryadi said the law “contains vague and broadly defined articles…the definition of intelligence secret contained in Article 1 of section (6) is careless and extensive”.
His complaint is similar to criticism of Malaysia’s Official Secrets Act under which almost any piece of information can be classified as an official secret.
Maryadi said the definition in the new law “is broader than the definition of exempted ‘information’ in the Law on Public Information Disclosure (the rough equivalent in Indonesia of a Freedom of Information Act). This clearly imperils journalists as it will criminalize the spread of public information.”
The law also empowers public institutions including government ministries to carry out intelligence acts, creating the opportunity for authorities to classify public information as state intelligence.
AJI said the law threatens the rights of the public to gain information, violates freedom of the press, and could potentially lead to abuse of power and violation of human rights.
In their petition, AJI and the others call on the Constitutional Court to consider 12 problematic articles in the new law as well as the definitions and scope of the law.
Indonesia has a vibrant free press, one of the freest in Asean, where journalists have legal protection for press freedom under the constitution as well as a press law. However its ranking on the RSF World Press Freedom Index fell this year because of violence against journalists in outlying provinces.
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