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Indonesia: Turning Critics into Criminal (HRW 2010 Report)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The HRW 2010 report released earlier this May focused on Indonesia’s defamation law. According to the Human Rights Watch’s press release:

The 91-page report, "Turning Critics into Criminals: The Human Rights Consequences of Criminal Defamation Law in Indonesia," documents recent cases in which criminal libel, slander, and "insult" laws have been used to silence public criticism. Criminal defamation charges have been filed against individuals after they held public demonstrations protesting corruption, wrote letters to the editor complaining about fraud, registered formal complaints with the authorities, and published news reports about sensitive subjects.

In an SMH op-ed published today, the author of the report argue:

Not everyone in Indonesia who airs critical facts or opinions ends up accused of a criminal offence. But the arbitrary enforcement of such laws, and even the mere threat of enforcement, has a damaging chilling effect on civil society, the media, and private citizens' willingness to express critical thoughts or opinions, especially online.

The cover page of the report pictured Prita Mulyasari, the housewife sent to trial under the defamation law for complaining for a bad health service she had received from a hospital. In my earlier op-ed, I emphasize the need for an efficient and effective out of court settlement in health cases, such as that involving Prita’s:

In a market-based solution, the parties stay out of court. If the health service provider does something wrong, they pay the patient and the patient can agree not to sue at a price. If providers don't do anything wrong, they ask the patient to issue a public apology and a sum of money to the extent that they can pay. The cost expended in this mechanism is much lower compared to going to court. This mechanism requires the government to reduce information asymmetry in the market as parties can only negotiate when the evidence is available.

This report sends a very strong message to the international community and create pressures to the government that a reform is urgent. Click on the image below to download the full report:


Related posts:
Bringing patients to court may not be efficient
Housewife on trial for defamation