Countries at the Crossroads 2004 - Indonesia
|Cite as||Freedom House, Countries at the Crossroads 2004 - Indonesia, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473868fb6a.html [accessed 1 May 2016]|
(Scores are based on a scale of 0 to 7, with 0 representing weakest and 7 representing strongest performance.)
Michael Malley is asisstant professor of political science at Ohio University.
Since the resignation of President Suharto in 1998, Indonesia has been undergoing a political transition from four decades of centralized, authoritarian rule to a new era marked by democracy and decentralization. After more than three decades in power, Suharto resigned amid widespread public protests against corruption in his regime. He was succeeded by his vice president, B.J. Habibie, who immediately began to liberalize laws on elections and political parties. In 1999, Indonesia held its freest and fairest legislative elections since 1955, and its first competitive presidential election ever. The new president was Abdurrahman Wahid, a liberal Islamic cleric and leader of a small Islamic party. Legislators drove him from office in 2001 amid allegations of corruption, and he was succeeded by Megawati Sukarnoputri, leader of the largest party and daughter of the man whom Suharto had forced from the presidency in the late 1960s. In April 2004, Indonesians will again go to the polls to elect national, provincial, and district legislators. In July the first direct presidential election will be held, with a possible run-off election scheduled for September.
As a result of these changes, Indonesians enjoy greater civil and political freedom than at any time in more than 40 years. However, the legacies of the previous era remain strong, influencing current levels of respect for civil and political rights and the rule of law, contributing to high levels of corruption and low levels of transparency, and weakening the accountability of public officials to citizens. Many of the problems Indonesia faces reflect a previous political system that has not been wholly dismantled and that in some respects remains largely unchanged. For instance, the armed forces receive less than one-third of their funding from the state budget and consequently retain a high level of autonomy from civilian control despite political and legal changes meant to establish civilian authority over the military.
Nearly every major donor has declared improved governance a critical development goal. Indeed, together with other donors, the United Nations Development Program has established the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia. However, donors face enormous challenges that are difficult to prioritize because they are so tightly connected.
One is corruption. Corruption is pervasive and highly institutionalized in all aspects of governance in Indonesia, limiting the accountability of leaders to citizens and undermining the rule of law. Elected politicians, bureaucrats, and leaders of the security forces often treat their positions as opportunities for self-enrichment. In 2002, the country's leading news weekly featured a cover story on corruption in the house of representatives, which it parodied as the "House of Bribery."1 The same year, an Indonesian nongovernmental organization (NGO) released a study that described a "court mafia" that involves judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and police in the fixing of disputes at all levels of the judicial system.2 Indeed, party leaders behave as though they do not expect to be held accountable for corruption. For instance, the speaker of the house of representatives has been convicted of corruption; an appeals court upheld his convictions, but pending a further appeal to the Supreme Court he retains his position as speaker and as leader of the second-largest political party. This encourages people to place more faith in extralegal mechanisms of obtaining and ensuring their rights. It also highlights the absence of a positive commitment by the state to uphold civil and political rights.
A second underlying problem is the weak capacity of electoral institutions to hold elected officials accountable. In part, this is due to the recency of Indonesia's transition to democracy. Elections have only been held once, and voters will not have a chance to hold their politicians accountable until mid-2004. In addition, however, Indonesia's electoral system (known as closed-list proportional representation) gives party leaders more influence than voters over individual legislators. At the district and provincial levels, legislators commonly use their authority over the executive to extract payments rather than exercise effective oversight of policy making and implementation.
Civil Liberties – 3.38
Respect for civil and political rights has improved substantially since the fall in 1998 of Suharto's three-decade-old authoritarian regime. Constitutional and other legal reforms have provided more rights for Indonesian citizens. However, most improvements derive from the strengthening of civil society and the weakening of the state rather than from the strengthening of the state's capacity and will to uphold civil and political rights.
Serious rights violations continue, especially in provinces affected by separatist movements (Aceh and Papua) and those in which communal conflicts have been widespread during the past five years (West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, Maluku, North Maluku). In these regions, security forces are able to operate with impunity. The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report on Indonesia puts it succinctly: "The Criminal Procedures Code contains provisions against arbitrary arrest and detention, but lacks adequate enforcement mechanisms, and authorities routinely violated [them]."3 These violations are very serious. Soldiers and police continue to commit serious abuses, including murder, torture, rape, beatings, and arbitrary detention of both civilians and members of separatist movements.4
Such abuses are less common in regions that are not experiencing conflict. For instance, killings and harassment of political opponents or other peaceful activists are not common outside the two separatist regions, Aceh and Papua. Neither the 1999 legislative elections nor the numerous elections of regional government executives since then have been marked by the killing of political opponents. However, the state is unable to protect citizens from abuse by private or non-state actors, as has been most evident in the government's inability to control paramilitary groups that contributed to major outbreaks of intercommunal violence during the past few years – for example in Maluku and Central Sulawesi.
There are no effective protections against arbitrary arrest or long-term detention without trial or provisions for access to independent counsel. When their rights are violated, citizens do not have effective means of petition and redress. Corruption and political interference in Indonesian court results in a failure to prosecute for abuses, and presidential decrees can override some laws.
All citizens have equal rights before the law, although the capacity of the state to enforce these rights is limited, and officials are not always willing to act when the capacity exists. The Indonesian state does not actively attempt to protect women and minorities from discrimination, but it also does not use gender- or minority-specific requirements to prevent their advancement, except in the military. In general, no group is singled out for state discrimination; rather, the state typically does not actively take steps to enforce the rights of its citizens. For instance, there is little evidence that the state is taking measures to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs, and practices that constitute discrimination against women. There is a widespread belief that rape and domestic violence are underreported and insufficiently investigated. Most people prefer not to report crimes rather than deal with the police. In the workplace, employers are free to discriminate between men and women, and help-wanted advertisements frequently specify the desired gender of the prospective employee.
The state has begun to take measures to prevent trafficking in women and children. In 2002, the government approved a national action plan designed to counter trafficking of women and children, as well as a Child Protection Act, which specifically prohibits economic and sexual exploitation of children. The government also revitalized a public education effort on trafficking, which includes television and radio programming. In addition, the government began the process of ratifying related UN protocols.5 However, Indonesia has no law that specifically defines and criminalizes trafficking in people. Implementation of those protections that exist is limited due to a lack of training of law-enforcement personnel as well as corruption that impedes prosecution.6
No ethnic or linguistic group is dominant in Indonesia, which means that judgments about the nature of minority rights and of state action to protect such rights is highly contextualized. On the one hand, large-scale exploitation of natural resources has often dislocated indigenous communities, mainly outside the densely populated island of Java. During the Suharto era, government-sponsored "transmigration" programs moved millions of people from Java and Bali to sparsely settled regions elsewhere. On the other hand, the current policy of decentralization offers control over education and cultural affairs to district-level governments throughout the country. Some of those governments have discriminated against people who are not of the dominant group of the particular district.
According to the constitution, the Indonesian state is based on a "belief in one supreme god." Five religions are recognized officially: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The state does provide for the free practice of religion, but its failure to recognize religions other than those identified permits officials to discriminate against people who profess them. There is no protection for nonbelievers, and the state does not actively assist adherents of other religions.
In sharp contrast to the Suharto era, today the state generally refrains from interference in the appointment of religious or spiritual leaders and in the internal organizational activities of faith-related organizations. In addition, the state generally refrains from placing restrictions on religious observance, religious ceremony, and religious education. However, in mid-2003, the house of representatives passed a law that requires all schools to offer religious instruction to all students in the religion they profess by a teacher who professes the same religion. Christians, a minority, strongly opposed this law, and the country's largest political party boycotted the vote to make this bill law.
In 2001, the national government granted the war-torn province of Aceh the right to implement Islamic law. The impact of this change remains uncertain for two reasons. First, neither the separatist movement there nor the provincial administration had sought this right, and the implementation process is proceeding slowly. Second, although the implementation of Islamic law has the potential to affect the practice of other religions, only a small minority of the provincial population professes other religions.
In general, the state recognizes every person's right to freedom of association, but the right to assemble is restricted. The government requires any gathering of five or more people related to political, labor, or public policy to notify the police. For the most part, the state effectively protects and recognizes the rights of civic associations, business organizations, and political organizations to organize, mobilize, and advocate for peaceful purposes. The major exception is the right to promote separatism in Aceh and Papua. NGOs face onerous legal impediments and registration requirements, but these are not notably greater than those required for other associations, organizations, or businesses.
The state respects the right to form and join trade unions, but it does little to ensure that anti-trade union forces in society respect those rights. Local security forces are known to work with business owners to resist unionization and strikes.
In general, and in marked contrast to Suharto's authoritarian regime, the current government refrains from using excessive force in dealing with demonstrations and public protests. However, it does continue to employ excessive force against certain groups, particularly advocates of independence for Papua and Aceh and workers and others who demonstrate for labor rights. In Papua, for instance, activists who raise the pro-independence movement's flag often face brutal police responses.
The most urgent need in terms of civil and political rights in Indonesia is to strengthen the country's law-enforcement and judicial systems. In this regard, law-enforcement officials should be retrained to understand and respect human rights, with incentives for constructive behavior and enforced punishment when rights are violated. For the understaffed police, whose role was subordinate to the army's during the Suharto era, there is a need to train current members and new recruits in areas ranging from basic policing skills and tactics to the handling of complex investigations into transnational threats, such as terrorism and human trafficking, as well as political and financial corruption. State prosecutors, too, should be trained in the handling of such issues.
Rule of Law – 2.95
Indonesia's legal system is notoriously corrupt and consequently unable to ensure the rule of law. Indonesian Corruption Watch, an Indonesian NGO, released a report in 2002 that described judicial corruption as "systemic," detailing the "court mafia" that negotiates the outcome of trials. At almost the same time, a UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers commented that he "didn't realize that the situation could be as bad" as he found it. And the International Commission of Jurists found in 2002 that "corruption in the judiciary remained endemic and popular distrust of judicial institutions persisted."7
Nevertheless, significant reforms have occurred since the transition to democracy began in 1998. New laws and courts, including a constitutional court and ad hoc human rights tribunals, have been introduced or are in the process of being created. So far, however, these have had little impact on the practice of law and politics.
The main obstacle to upholding the rule of law more widely is a lack of political will among elected officials. Their interests seem well served by the weakness of legal institutions and the deep institutionalization of corruption among judicial and law-enforcement officials. These problems, in turn, account for the disinclination of most citizens and groups to rely on the law to protect their rights. As testament to the weakness of the rule of law, large organizations, including political parties, rely on their own security forces to protect their events and senior leaders and to intimidate opponents.8
The courts do not function in a timely and effective manner, nor do they carry out justice with due process. Judicial independence is uncommon. For the most part, this is due to corruption in the judicial system rather than executive or legislative dominance of the judiciary. To a limited extent, judges and magistrates are insulated from interference by the executive and/or legislative branches because, since the advent of democracy, courts are administratively under the Supreme Court rather than a cabinet minister as in the past. However, the president still appoints and promotes judges, which creates strong incentives for judges to heed executive interests.
Government authorities often do not comply with court rulings, whose legitimacy is in any case questionable. The most notable case of government noncompliance has been that of the leader of Golkar, the second-largest political party, who also serves as speaker of the house of representatives. He was found guilty of corruption by a lower court in 2002. Although a higher court upheld his conviction, he has not begun to serve his jail sentence on the grounds that his appeal to the Supreme Court is pending. Legislators of all parties continue to recognize him as speaker of the house.
Indonesians charged with a criminal offense have a legal right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. However, few expect or receive a fair and public hearing because of widespread corruption in the police, prosecution, and judiciary. The law entitles citizens charged with serious felonies access to independent counsel when it is beyond their means, but the general practice is to discourage defendants from hiring counsel. In addition, defendants are not entitled to counsel prior to being officially arrested, which means they can be denied counsel during extended pre-arrest detentions.
Indonesia has been making an increased effort to contain terrorism since the bombings of tourist sites in Bali in October 2002. Amrozi bin Nurhasyim was sentenced to death in August 2003 for involvement in the Bali bombings, and radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Basyir was convicted of "subversion" after accusations that he leads the Islamist terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah (JI). However, the government has been accused of interfering in trials to achieve political goals, such as appeasing the Muslim lobby.9
Prosecutors are under the authority of the attorney general – a presidential appointee – and lack a tradition of political independence. The current attorney general is a career prosecutor from the Suharto era who is suspected of corruption, but he cannot be formally investigated or charged without the president's permission, which she has withheld. Despite a few cases against high-profile leaders such as the speaker of the house of representatives, it remains very uncommon for public officials and ruling party actors to be prosecuted for the abuse of power and other wrongdoing.
Nominally, the armed forces are accountable to civilian political authorities, and since 1999 defense ministers have been civilians. However, because the government funds less than one-third of the operational expenses of the armed forces,10 such control is weak. In addition, because the political transition that placed the security forces under civilian control is so recent, such control is not yet institutionalized, and civilian authorities often lack the knowledge and personal relationships needed to manage the armed forces.
The police, military, and internal security services refrain from interfering directly in most parts of the political process. Although presidents have continued to appoint generals to their cabinets, the process of democratization since 1998 has nearly eliminated the armed forces' ability to hold onto key political positions. During the late Suharto era, military officers filled about half of all provincial and district executive positions, but since the introduction of elections for those positions only a small number of retired officers have been elected. In 2004, the armed forces will lose their appointive seats in national and subnational legislatures. However, most observers feel the armed forces retain substantial autonomy because they are largely self-funded, and this enables them to wield strong influence over policies that concern security, especially in provinces where there are separatist movements. Also, the army retains its territorial structure, which parallels the politico-administrative structure and gives its regional commanders some influence in local politics. In communal conflicts, local police and army units have taken sides.
One change that appears to be increasingly important is the separation of the police from the armed forces. Under authoritarian rule the army overshadowed the police, who were too few in number and lacked adequate capacity and training to gather intelligence, control crowds, and investigate crimes. In 2002, however, the police did investigate the murder of a leading Papuan separatist, which they traced to army personnel. (Since the armed forces have jurisdiction over military personnel, the police could not pursue the case further.) In addition, following the terrorist bombing in Bali in October 2002, the police collaborated closely with foreign police forces in an aggressive investigation that led to the arrest of key suspects and the revelation of an extensive terrorist network in Indonesia.
Legally, all Indonesians are equal before the law. But corruption in the judiciary calls this equality into question for everyone, regardless of race or gender. The way in which rights are enforced varies widely. The urban poor, people in provinces beset by communal conflict and separatist movements, and people without clear land titles are among those whose rights are routinely violated.
Property rights, including intellectual property rights, are frequently challenged, but the police and judiciary rarely act independently to uphold them. While the foreign media mainly focus on the negative consequences of this for foreign investment, this problem also affects large numbers of Indonesians from all social and economic backgrounds.
The most pressing need with respect to rule of law is to disable the court mafia that involves judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in the regular fixing of cases. Enhanced training for judges and law-enforcement officials in applying and interpreting the law is certainly necessary, particularly in areas such as corruption and human rights. However, they also need a more supportive political environment in order to work effectively. The punishment for corrupt behavior must be greater than the rewards such behavior brings. In part, this requires the strengthening of civil society, not just by enhancing the capacity of government watchdog groups but also by raising awareness among the general public about the rights to which they are entitled and the opportunities available to them to pursue justice.
Anticorruption and Transparency – 2.46
The environment for protecting against corruption and ensuring governmental transparency in Indonesia is very weak. It is best summarized in a press release announcing the publication of a report by the Jakarta office of the World Bank: "the nature of Indonesia's current transition makes it very difficult to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to fight corruption. The current state of flux allows the informal rules and perverse incentives of the past to flourish, while new formal rules have yet to take hold. Vested interests remain powerful, law enforcement institutions are weak, and the ability of the state to implement an integrated program of anti-corruption measures is limited."11
The government is not free from excessive bureaucratic regulations, registration requirements, and other controls that increase opportunities for corruption. Laws regulating businesses are often vague, and personal relationships can be more important than stated rules. Indonesia regularly is rated among the most corrupt countries in the world. For instance, in 2003 Transparency International rated Indonesia 122nd out of 133 countries.12 In this context, it is not surprising that the state does not adequately protect against conflicts of interest and does not enforce the separation of public office from the personal interests of public officeholders. Financial disclosure procedures to prevent conflict of interest are clearly inadequate. The state officials' wealth investigation commission, established in 2001, requires appointed and elected officials to complete formal disclosure forms (without meaningful sanction). Thousands of officials have submitted declarations of their wealth to a state commission, which has published them in the weekly state gazette. However, the commission has no power to carry out criminal investigations or bring charges against those who do not comply, and the government declines to prosecute itself. For example, the commission found evidence that the attorney general himself had engaged in corruption, but the president has not permitted him to be investigated.
State involvement in the economy remains substantial, but it is declining, mainly as a result of severe fiscal pressure that limits the state's capacity to play a large role. Indonesia's government has made enormous progress since the late 1990s toward selling corporate assets that it acquired as a result of its efforts during the 1997-98 financial crisis to bail out insolvent banks, which were unable to collect loans from bankrupt corporations. However, both politicians and the public show strong support, reflected in the constitution (Article 33), for state involvement in the economy. Whether the state's remaining role is excessive depends on a political judgment.
The state does not enforce an effective legislative or administrative process to punish the corruption of public officials. A move is under way to establish an anticorruption commission by the end of 2003, but all other efforts since the transition to democracy began in 1998 have failed to curb corruption, and there are few reasons to think this one will be different.
Government units and the tax administrator lack effective internal audit systems to ensure the accountability of expenditure and of tax collection. The state audit board conducts audits of state funds, and its findings often are reported in the press, but law-enforcement authorities rarely use the board's findings as a basis for criminal investigations.
Entrance to public universities is by competitive examination; corruption is not a common means for securing entrance. Privately run higher education spans a broad range of institutions, and there is probably much broader scope for money to influence admissions decisions.
Activists and investigators regularly provide evidence of bribery and corruption, which is widely reported in the news media. For instance, in 2002 the leading newsweekly's cover story investigated corruption in the national legislature, which it parodied as the "House of Bribery," noting that the legislative parking garage resembled a "luxury automobile showroom." Its reports stemmed from admissions by two ruling parties legislators that legislators had received bribes from the state agency in charge of restructuring the banking sector.13 Despite such high-level admissions and investigative reporting, prosecutors and police have failed to conduct their own inquiries and consequently few charges are brought and even fewer convictions secured. Allegations of corruption by government officials at the national and local levels are rarely investigated and prosecuted in a thorough manner.
There is very significant legal, regulatory, and judicial transparency in Indonesia, particularly in contrast to the authoritarian era. However, most people outside the government feel such transparency needs enhancement. Many officials treat information about state activities either as secrets to be revealed only to those with a need to know or as private goods they are entitled to sell. Nevertheless, laws and regulations are widely published, and some elements of the state, such as the finance ministry and central bank, publish a large amount of information on the Internet.
The executive budget-making process is quite comprehensive; it is certainly subject to meaningful legislative review and scrutiny. Still, many people outside the government would like more detailed budgeting and would like the legislature to play a more constructive oversight role. The legislature publishes an account of budget expenditures, but the report lacks detail, and figures are not available from individual government agencies. On an annual basis, the house of representatives approves a bill that recapitulates the previous year's budget and contains the actual figures for revenues and expenditures; typically it also does so at mid-year in the form of a budget amendment. However, these accounts generally are broken down by sector rather than by the agency that spends the funds, and, as a result, many people feel that they disclose too little information to enable citizens to hold the government accountable. During the past few years there has been some public discussion of a freedom of information act, but none has been passed.
The state generally does not ensure transparency, open bidding, and effective competition in the awarding of government contracts. However, it does enable the legal administration and distribution of foreign assistance.
Corruption is so extensive and institutionalized that piecemeal reforms are unlikely to have a significant impact, while comprehensive reforms are unlikely to be acceptable to Indonesian politicians and state officials. Changing this situation requires a long-term commitment to building political support for fighting corruption. The least difficult reform to achieve is transparency, which has improved with media reporting. The challenge is to make use of information such as asset declarations to hold officials legally and politically accountable. More effort needs to be placed on connecting asset declarations with effective prosecutions. A special commission with powers to prosecute corruption should be set up. At the same time, more emphasis needs to be placed on cleaning up the judiciary, including enhanced training and better assessment of the judiciary's activities. While it is also necessary to improve the capacity of police, prosecution, and courts to do their work, it is even more important to create a political climate in which politicians fear being seen as corrupt. This involves providing more protection for whistleblowers on corruption matters and introducing tougher penalties for corruption.
Accountability and Public Voice – 4.03
Since the beginning of Indonesia's political transition in 1998, greater progress has been made in accountability and public voice than in the other three areas covered in this report. However, while there is greater opportunity for public voice as reflected in a vigorous mass media, the ability of Indonesians to hold their officials accountable remains in serious doubt.
The house of representatives has 500 members, of whom 462 are elected; the others are military appointees. Thus far, the president has not been directly elected. Instead, the People's Consultative Assembly has had the power to choose and remove the president from office. The People's Consultative Assembly contains all members of the house of representatives, plus 200 additional members chosen by provincial governments and the national electoral commission to represent the regions and under-represented groups. Beginning in 2004, the president will be directly elected.
The national and regional legislative elections held in 1999 were the freest and fairest since 1955. They met the standards of universal and equal suffrage, conducted by secret ballot, monitored by independent electoral authorities, and free of fraud and intimidation. Most observers believe that ballots were counted in an honest manner in 1999 and will be counted fairly in 2004. However, until elections are held again in 2004, the capacity of Indonesians to hold their officials accountable through the ballot box cannot be fully assessed.
The opportunity for the effective rotation of power among a range of different political parties appears genuine. Forty-eight parties contested the 1999 elections, while only three had been permitted previously. Parties were free to campaign. However, the major parties are divided more along religious identity lines rather than policy differences, so the extent to which they represent competing interests is not clear to most observers, let alone to the voters. Regional parties are not permitted, and the newest electoral law makes it more difficult for small parties to secure seats in the national legislature. Whether rotation of power will actually be possible is an open question, as only one election has occurred.
In general, the state system ensures that people's political choices are free from domination by the military, which has been a problem in the past. Still, extensive corruption reflects the willingness of elected politicians to serve the interests of people other than their constituents. Although entrance to the civil service is by examination, there are widespread allegations that money is more important than merit in gaining a civil service job.
Regulations governing campaign financing are clearly inadequate. The Jakarta office of the International Foundation for Electoral Studies (IFES) has released a series of reports over the past few years that details the numerous and significant shortcomings of these laws. For instance, in its most recent report, it states: "Although political parties are legally obligated to report their finances, the laws do not impose legal liability for complying with the law upon any particular person within the political party. [Laws on parties and the legislature] do not adequately assign responsibility for political parties (and candidates) to follow campaign finance regulations, to maintain proper financial records, and to submit disclosure requirements." In this light, it is not surprising that IFES also finds that many parties have not submitted the required annual financial reports and that the content of the reports that are submitted is often "of questionable accuracy and completeness."14
Women do not seem to have more difficulty than men in voting, and women certainly play prominent roles in civil society and politics. More women are being elected as district executives under democracy than were appointed during the authoritarian era, though their numbers remain very small. However, the political parties and most NGOs are male dominated, and the number of female legislators appears to have declined compared to the authoritarian era. According to a leading female politician and former cabinet member, women's share of legislative seats peaked at 13 percent in 1987 but has fallen below 9 percent since 1999.15 Leading Muslim party politicians openly opposed the current president's candidacy in 1999 on the grounds that a woman should not be political leader of a predominantly Muslim society.
Citizens are not necessarily provided access to information about pending laws and regulations, but activists and lobbyists typically are able to gain access in a timely fashion. Drafts of legislation often circulate quite widely in Jakarta. Few standards dictate the type of information that must be public.
The state does not actively protect the rights of the independent civic sector, but the state permits it to exist and function and does not systematically discriminate against it. Consequently, civic groups are able to lobby and organize protests on behalf of policies they support and against those they oppose. The legislature holds public hearings and invites speakers from whom party leaders wish to hear testimony, including representatives of some civic organizations. Donors to these groups operate without undue pressure from the state. Indeed, external funding provides critical support to many leading Indonesian civic organizations.
The news media are quite free, but the state does little to protect them, as attacks on one of the country's leading media companies demonstrated in early 2003. The state refrains from direct and indirect censorship of the media except in Aceh, and while libel laws exist that impede open criticism of state officials, it is not common for officials to use these laws against their opponents. A broadcasting law came into effect in 2002 that limits the role of government in media regulation and calls for an independent communication commission; these reforms have boosted the number of community-owned radio stations. However, President Megawati has reconstituted the old department of information, which handled censorship during the Suharto era, and she and the minister of information have expressed a desire for greater control over the media.
In general, the government refrains from determining or controlling media content. State ownership of the media is most pervasive in television and radio, a legacy of the previous authoritarian regime, which sharply restricted private ownership. However, while state-owned broadcasters have larger national networks than others, in major urban markets they face stiff private competition. Competitive, privately owned news media help prevent the government from using the media to propagandize or give preference to official points of view.
While individuals have the right to express their own views, the state does not actively protect this right. Moreover, during the past year there have been worrying signs that the government is inclined to employ the same legal means that the previous regime – and Dutch colonial authorities – used to deter people from criticizing it directly. The criminal code makes it a crime to insult the president or vice president and allows jail terms of up to six years for people convicted of doing so. The code also includes sections known as the hate-sowing articles, which make it a crime to publicly express hatred or contempt for the government and prohibit people from spreading such feelings through the media. Violators face jail sentences of up to seven years. According to two leading human rights groups, the government's use of these articles has led to an increase in the number of political prisoners for the first time since Suharto's downfall in 1998.16
Journalists lack effective protection from victimization by powerful non-state actors, which is a common subject of discussion among journalists. In March 2003, a group of men associated with a businessman with close ties to the security forces attacked the office of the country's leading news magazine following publication of an unflattering cover story. The thugs received light sentences, while the court continues to look favorably on libel charges that the businessman subsequently brought against the journalists. However, although journalists are not protected, they remain able to report on the misdeeds of political leaders.
Most efforts to strengthen the institutions through which elected officials can be held accountable are likely to threaten the power of the leading political parties and hence are unlikely to be accepted. Although the parties have agreed to modify the system of closed-list proportional representation used in 1999 by slightly opening it in 2004, the parties maintain control over the ranking of candidates on the lists. Further movement toward an open list would enhance accountability. More information should be available about political party financing and government operations to enable civic groups to mobilize public pressure more effectively and enhance accountability between elections. In part this may require revisions to existing laws. However, political parties also need to comply with existing laws. Continuing efforts are also needed to protect journalists and their right to report freely on critical issues, including internal conflicts such as that in Aceh.
1 Press Release (Washington, DC: World Bank, 20 October 2003), http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/eap/eap.nsf/Attachments/03-1020-corruptionreport/$File/03-1020-corruption.pdf; "Combating Corruption in Indonesia: Enhancing Accountability for Development" (World Bank, 20 October 2003), http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/eap/eap.nsf/Attachments/03-1020-combatingcor/$File/Combating+Corruption+in+Indonesia-Oct15.pdf.
2 Indonesia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 31 March 2003), 64-65.
3 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 14.
4 Ibid., 3.
5 Ibid., 64-65.
7 "RI Judiciary Worse than First Thought: UN Rapporteur," Jakarta Post, 22 July 2002; "Report Reveals Corruption in Court Is Organized," Jakarta Post, 23 July 2002; "Indonesia – Attacks on Justice 2002" (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 27 August 2002), http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=2660&lang=en.
8 See "The Perils of Private Security in Indonesia: Guards and Militias on Bali and Lombok," Asia Report No. 67 (Brussels: International Crisis Group, 7 November 2003).
9 "Basyir Bashed, But Lightly," Economist, 4 September 2003.
10 Angel Rabasa and John Haseman, "The Military and Democracy in Indonesia: Challenges, Politics, and Power" (Santa Monica: RAND, 2002), 70.
11 Press Release (Washington, DC: World Bank, 20 October 2003), http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/eap/eap.nsf/Attachments/03-1020-corruptionreport/$File/03-1020-corruption.pdf; "Combating Corruption in Indonesia: Enhancing Accountability for Development" (World Bank, 20 October 2003), http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/eap/eap.nsf/Attachments/03-1020-combatingcor/$File/Combating+Corruption+in+Indonesia-Oct15.pdf.
12 International Corruption Perceptions Index 2003 (Berlin: Transparency International, 2003), 5.
13 See "Dewan Persuapan Rakyat?" and "Tak Putus Dirundung Suap," Tempo (Jakarta), 30 September 2002.
14 "Campaign Finance Regulation and Public Disclosure: Challenges and Opportunities" (Jakarta: IFES, September 2003), 9-10.
15 Khofifah Indar Parawansa, "Hambatan terhadap Partisipasi Politik Perempuan di Indonesia," Perempuan di Parlemen: Bukan Sekedar Jumlah (Stockholm: International IDEA), 41.
16 "A Return to the New Order? Political Prisoners in Megawati's Indonesia" (New York: Human Rights Watch, July 2003); "Indonesia: Old Laws – New Prisoners of Conscience" (London: Amnesty International, 10 July 2003).