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Indonesia's press decry threat to press freedom

Reporters call proposed criminal code changes a 'step backward'

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Indonesia's press decry threat to press freedom

Catholic journalists from various media pose for a group photo after an annual meeting in January in Jakarta. (Photo by Emanuel Dapa Loka)

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Indonesian journalists say proposed changes to the criminal code target reporters and make them vulnerable to criminal charges.

Sixteen articles in the revised draft threaten the freedom of the press, they said.

Article 329(d), for example, states that publishing or allowing the publication of any material that may influence the impartiality of a judge during a court hearing is unlawful and could result in a five-year prison term.

Journalists from Press Legal Aid, the Alliance of Independent Journalists and the Association of Indonesian Catholic Journalists said the criminal code should regulate but not stifle their work.

"We are moving backwards if our press freedom is restricted," said Emanuel Dapa Loka, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Catholic Journalists, which has over 700 members.

"Indonesia has its own press law and that is adequate to regulate the press," he said.

Dapa Loka said lawmakers might be concerned about clamping down on social media.

"Even so, if they are bothered by [content] on social media they can use the Electronic Information and Transactions Law to deal with those issues," he said.

Just days after the nation banned a BBC reporter, the Indonesian Press Council echoed similar views.

It said it would warn the parliamentary committee that is handling changes to the act about the dangers of gagging the press.

"[We] will advise the committee … that the criminal law should not bridle press freedom," said council member Jimmy Silalahi.

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