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Prison term for online defamation remains, Indonesian High Court says

(AJI/IFEX) - On 5 May 2009, The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia read out its decision over the request for a Judicial Review against Law No. 11 of 2008 concerning Information and Electronic Transactions. The Court rejected the request to revoke article 27 paragraph (3) of the said law.

According to the constitutional board of judges, one's right over a reputation is protected by the criminal law. The Court is also of the opinion that criminal defamation through the Internet is not a curtailment against freedom of speech but is aimed at limiting freedom of speech from any arbitrary conduct.

With this decision, the six-year imprisonment for those convicted of defamation through the Internet shall remain valid. In other words, defamation through the Internet may carry a heavier punishment than defamation through conventional media as stipulated in the Criminal Code.

Without any intention to disrespect the Court's decision, AJI Indonesia regrets such a decision as it will expose journalists working for the Internet to a heavier punishment, if committing defamation, than other media journalists. Current media business is moving toward a media convergence wherein coverage from the print media, radio and television is also published through the Internet. Therefore, this heavy criminal sanction is directed at all journalists.

AJI Indonesia is of the opinion that such a decision indicates that Indonesia's constitutional judges still apply the old legal paradigm whereas many countries have abolished criminal defamation from their laws. Criminal defamation is always used to curtail freedom of expression.

The latest legal idea says that defamation is not criminal conduct, but civil conduct because defamation is an attack against one's individual right. The Constitutional Court, however, still considers defamation criminal conduct.

AJI Indonesia is concerned with this decision and will continue its struggle for the abolition of criminal defamation through other legal means.

AJI Indonesia, together with several organizations and individual journalists, earlier filed a request for a judicial review against article 27 paragraph (3) UU ITE (Information and Electronic Transactions Law). This article says, "Anyone who deliberately and without any right to distribute and/or transmit and/or allow an access to an electronic information and/or electronic document containing a contempt and/or defamation, shall be imposed with a criminal sanction of six years' imprisonment and a maximum of Rp 1 billion fine." It is also specified in Article 45 of the said Law.

Updates alert on the case of Law No. 11 of 2008 concerning Information and Electronic Transactions:

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