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State intelligence law challenged in court

UPDATE: ARTICLE 19 submits brief to Constitutional Court on national security and freedom of expression (ARTICLE 19, 3 May 2012)

(AJI/IFEX) – 25 January 2012 – The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), four non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and 13 individuals filed a judicial review of the State Intelligence Law at the Constitutional Court in Jakarta on 5 January. The group is protesting what they call the law's threat to freedom of the press and democracy in Indonesia.

The House of Representatives approved the bill on 11 October 2011, following which Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono passed it into Law No.17/2011 on State Intelligence on 7 November 2011.

AJI, IMPARSIAL, ELSAM, YLBHI, Perkumpulan Masyarakat Setara, and 13 Indonesian nationals who were members of the Coalition of the Advocacy of Law on State Intelligence argue that the legislation violates the 1945 Constitution, particularly Article 28F on freedom of expression and information.

"The State Intelligence Law contains vague and broadly-defined articles. The definition of 'intelligence secret' contained in Article 1 of section (6) is careless and extensive. In fact, it is broader than the definition of 'exempted information' in the Law on Public Information Disclosure. This clearly imperils journalists as it will criminalize the spread of public information," said AJI president Eko Maryadi.

In addition, the law also empowers a number of public institutions, including government ministries, to carry out intelligence measures under Article 9(e), creating the opportunity for authorities to classify public information as state intelligence.

"This development affects the guarantees of freedom of the press under the Press Law," Eko said, adding that media scrutiny and criticism of state institutions could be deemed a crime if journalists used or cited documents that had been classified. If found guilty under the new law, violators could face jail sentences of up to 10 years.

According to AJI, in addition to threatening the public's right to information and freedom of the press, the State Intelligence Law could lead to abuses of power and violations of human rights.

In their petition, AJI and its partners are calling on the Constitutional Court to reconsider various problematic Articles (1, 4, 6, 9, 22, 25, 26, 29, 31, 34, 44 and 45) dealing with the definition and scope of the law. AJI also calls on both journalists and the general public to defend freedom of the press and the freedom to access public information as guaranteed by the 1945 Constitution.

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