UNAIR NEWS – Indonesian veteran NGO, LP3ES, held another State of Law Discussion Series on Monday afternoon, July 12, 2021, to discuss media repressiveness in Indonesia amid COVID-19 pandemic. Several well-known legal figures and journalists were present as speakers in this discussion. They were YLBHI’s Director, Asfinawati, Lapor COVID-19 Initiator, Ahmad Arif, and Multatuli Project Founder Evi Mariani.
UNAIR Human Rights expert Dr. Herlambang P. Wiratraman was also present as a moderator, and gave an opening remarks to start the discussion. He said that media repressiveness, whether in journalism or social media, is a symptom of the shrinking civil space.
“Reviewing this shrinking civil space, we should see how the pattern of state power rolls out during this pandemic. Here I can see it from three points,” said the lecturer of Constitutional Law.
According to Herlambang, the first point is unpreparedness, which often results in the government’s failure to respond to the pandemic and save its citizens. It’s seen from the perspective of the government’s narrative, which seemed dismissive at first, or in terms of the issuance of government policies that are not based on science.
In the context of oligarchic politics, the second point is the government’s tendency to the autocratic legalism phenomenon. Herlambang explained that this phenomenon revolves around the issuance of policies, laws, and regulations that legalize repression, oligarchic dominance, and corrupt actions. He added that the pandemic, which is an emergency, seemed to be an opportunity to smooth the issuance of the legal product.
“We can see the biggest examples from the Job Creation Law and the revision of the Minerba (Minerals and Coal) Law, which was accelerated at the beginning of the pandemic. The latest example is paid vaccines, whereas previously President Jokowi clearly said that the vaccines would be free,” said the Leiden University alumnus.
The third point is the record of declining democracy during Jokowi administration itself, especially in the second period. According to Herlambang, one of these setbacks was triggered by the stunted civil liberties, which were not only present in the form of denial but also suppression. Methods like cyber attacks and doxing on experts and journalists, such as the hacking of UI Epidemiologist Pandu Riono’s Twitter account and the deletion of Tirto.id news related to vaccine research conducted by BIN with a well-known university are some of the examples he described.
“Therefore, there is a complex problem in the challenges we face. First, the government does not utilize good crisis communication narratives. Second, citing a concept in Cass Sunstein’s book Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception, there’s a peril of infodemics. Third is impunity and discrimination in cybercrime law enforcement and media repressiveness,” concluded Herlambang.
Author: Pradnya Wicaksana
Editor: Nuri Hermawan