Bill on Content Threatens Press Freedom
By the time this article was written, at least 3000 people were supporting the rejection against Communication and Information Ministerial Decree Draft on Multimedia Content (RPM Konten) on the internet S.O.S account on Facebook. A thousand people have shown their support on the Say No To RPM Konten account. On Twitter, rejections started showing on Friday, February 12. The target was Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, who according to his Twitter update, was in Sweden.
Tifatul, who frequently uses the internet, especially Twitter, is considered going to resume the authoritarian style of former Information Minister Harmoko during the era of President Soeharto who controlled the content of media information.
Several contents are forbidden in the draft as well as binding obligations for multimedia service providers to control their content although IT expert Dr. Onno S. Purbo said it was technically hard because in the world of multimedia, content means the flow of thousands even millions of information that is hard to moderate.
So far, there has not been any serious response from Tifatul. On the interview with ANTV’s TOPIK reporter, the Head of Communication and Information Public Relations Division, Gatot S Dewabroto said the government controlled the content of the internet and the RPM Konten did not aim to regulate the programs of TV and other kind type of media. Is that true?
Let’s take a look into some of the content of the RPM Konten which consists of 32 articles. In the preamble, the RPM mentions six laws, two governmental decrees and two ministerial decrees. Law no 40/ 1999 on Press and Law no 32/ 2002 on Broadcasting are also included.
The RPM defines “content” as electronic information substances or content and/or electronic documents that consist of voices, writings, pictures (moving and non-moving ones) or other audio visual forms, presentations in the form of programs, or the combination of the bits or the entire elements.
Meanwhile, “multimedia” is an electronic system that has the ability to perform the function of telecommunication, broadcasting and information technology. RPM defines “multimedia content” as the content that is published, distributed, transmitted, and accessible and/or kept through or within multimedia devices.
The preamble has made clear that print and broadcast media products will be subjected to the regulation. Some newspapers and magazines have their online versions or e-paper, so does online media that has included visual content, even cooperating with TV as content suppliers (such as what VIVA group does, through the collaboration with tvOne and antv).
The writer of the RPM Konten ignored the existence of Media Convergence that was just discussed and supported by Tifatul Sembiring at the National Media Convention which was held on the National Press Day in Palembang on February 8. At the discussion, a speaker from a radio station even revealed how a simple device and internet access enables us to enjoy about 5000 radio shows in the US.
Is the Communication and Information Department entitled to regulate (in this case, censor) the content of print and broadcast media as suggested by the RPM? The answer is clear: NO. The Press Law guarantees freedom of the press as people’s basic rights. Article 4 paragraph 2 declares that there is not any censorship, ban, or broadcasting restriction in national press. The explanation is also clear, adding that information transmission outside journalism products will be regulated by certain laws.
Journalism products that are published by print or electronic media must obey the Press Law and the Indonesian Journalism Code of Ethics, which according to Article 15 of the Press Law, is implemented by an independent press council. In terms of broadcasting, the Broadcasting Law grants the power to regulate broadcasting content to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, an independent commission, which according to Article 8 of the Broadcasting Law, has the right to set broadcasting program standards, create regulations and apply broadcasting guidelines, supervise the enforcement of the rules and impose sanctions on violations against the standards of broadcasting programs and broadcasting guidelines.
Both the Press Law and the Broadcasting Law do not give, even a bit of power, to the government or the Communication and Information Department to oversee the content of print and broadcast media, as well as online media when the content of print and broadcast media is presented as part of convergence implementation. There has even been an agreement between the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission and the Press Council that it was the Press Council who is entitled to regulate media content and provide sanctions to violations against the Press Law and the Journalism Code of Ethics.
The RPM gives the power to decide whether content should be banned to the Multimedia Content team of 30 people, half of them are members of governmental institutions and the rest are experts or professionals. The team is led by a relevant director general from the Information and Communications Department. The sense of old-fashioned system is really strong here.
The RPM is full of restrictions and burdens the providers of multimedia services, in this case including telecommunication service providers that offer information technology-based services that include internet access and other multimedia services.
For example, Article 7 of RPM Konten governs matters clashing with people’s basic rights as stated in Article 28 F of the 1945 Constitution, which is an amendment that states: Everybody has the right to communicate and acquire information to develop their personal and social environment and to find, obtain, own, keep, process, and deliver information using any available channel.
Whereas, Article 7 of the RPM Konten disallows providers to distribute, transmit, and / or provide access to content that contains: “private matters, including content on personal authentic certificates and someone’s will, the history and condition of family members; the history, condition, treatment, medication, physical and psychological conditions of someone, the financial condition, assets, income and bank account of someone, capability-related evaluation results. The intellectuality and recommendation from someone, which is related to the activities of formal and non-formal education units”.
How about media coverage, including online media, on the medical records and medications of former President Soeharto and Gus Dur? Is it a violation? Are the media not allowed to report on public officials’ properties? While the Corruption Eradication Law, which is the foundation of the Anti-graft Commission, requires public officials to report their properties to the public? Do people have the right to the capability and the intellectuality of their future leaders? What is the harm in someone wanting to announce their final wishes and will through multimedia?
Besides ignoring the Constitution and the Law, which are technically above the Ministerial Decree, the RPM obviously interferes too much with people’s personal lives, including personal decision making. Article 5, for instance, forbids providers to distribute, transmit and/ or creates access to content that contains matters which undermine the condition, physical abilities, intellectual, services, proficiency and other physical and non-physical aspects from a certain party. In short, Article 3 to 7, which explains about restricted content, is actually overlapping with regulations designed by other laws such as the Criminal Code, Anti-pornography Law and other regulations.
Sanctions for violators can be found in Article 30 of RPM Konten, which include administrative sanctions in the form of written warning, administrative fines, business restrictions and / or license revocation according to the law. To make it worse, the sanction imposition does not remove criminal responsibilities, something that is strongly opposed by the press.
Rumor has it that the RPM was written in 2006 when Tifatul had not served as the Minister of Information and Communications and the position was held by Prof Muhammad Nuh. The fact, even if it is true, does not eliminate critics against the leadership and the vision of Tifatul who uses an ‘ancient’ script that is not visionary as a publically-tested material.
Assuming that the creation of the RPM is the bureaucracy of Information and Communications Department, the mindset of its people clearly has not changed much from the paradigm during the authoritative era of the New Order that tend to oppose the freedom of the press.
The freedom of the press itself has been restricted by Article 28J, paragraph 1 of Constitution 1945 that states: “Everybody is obligated to honor other people’s basic rights in social and political living,” and paragraph 2: “In using their rights and freedom, everybody must obey the restrictions that are set by the law in the purpose of assuring recognition and respect towards other people’s rights to be free and fulfilling a fair demand according to moral consideration, religious values, security and public order within a democratic society.
The passion to oversee multimedia content and regulate internet content does not only happen in Indonesia. In many countries, especially the communist ones or the ones that are not democratically governed, the desire especially comes from the conservative groups who are disturbed by the information that flows on the internet.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the internet is caused by people’s increasing eagerness to deliver their aspirations. Most internet and multimedia content are people’s aspirations that reflect real conditions among the society.
If their posts cause any trouble, such as bad public service revelation, like the one done by Prita Mulyasari, the best way to solve it is by improving the services and not censoring, let alone prohibiting the information to be published in multimedia.
Uni Z Lubis, journalist and member of Press Council, 2010-2013
Translated by: Nataya Ermanti