Freedom Status: Partly Free
Aggregate Score: 65
Freedom Rating: 3.0
Political Rights: 2
Civil Liberties: 4

Quick Facts

Population: 255,741,973
Capital: Jakarta
GDP/Capita: $3,491.90
Press Freedom Status: Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: Partly Free


Indonesia's new parliament, seated in October 2014 after April elections, voted in January 2015 to reinstate direct elections for subnational administrative heads (governor, district chief, and mayor). The move confirmed the president's 2014 decision to halt a law passed by the outgoing parliament that would have abolished such elections.

Broader reform efforts were hampered by institutional rivalry between what has become known as a "judicial mafia" – including elements of the national police, the parliament, and some judicial bodies – and reform-oriented agencies such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). President Joko Widodo ("Jokowi") appeared unable to control the infighting, casting doubt on his anticorruption and reformist credentials.

The rivalry escalated in 2015, catalyzed by the nomination of Budi Gunawan – then a suspect in an ongoing corruption case – as chief of the national police. The police and judiciary mounted multiple legal attacks on members of the KPK, the independent Judicial Commission, and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in retaliation for graft investigations and findings that questioned the quality of legal decisions. In December, parliament speaker Setya Novanto resigned amid allegations that he demanded a 20 percent stake in mining company Freeport Indonesia in exchange for accelerating a contract renewal.

An air-pollution crisis, driven in large part by the illegal clearing of forest for agriculture, affected parts of Indonesia and the surrounding region, underscoring the authorities' failure to enforce existing regulations and rein in influential resource-extraction companies.


Political Rights: 31 / 40 (+1)

A. Electoral Process: 11 / 12 (+1)

Independent monitoring groups have found elections in Indonesia to be free and fair. The president is directly elected and serves as both head of state and head of government. The House of Representatives (DPR), with 560 seats, is the main parliamentary chamber. The 132-member House of Regional Representatives (DPD) is responsible for monitoring laws related to regional autonomy, and may also propose bills related to regional autonomy and the relationship between central and local governments. All legislators serve five-year terms with no term limit. Presidents and vice presidents can serve up to two five-year terms.

Jokowi, the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), won the July 2014 presidential election with 53 percent of the vote, defeating former general Prabowo Subianto. The PDI-P, the party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, led the April 2014 DPR elections with 19 percent of the vote and 109 seats. Golkar, the party of former president Suharto, won 91 seats, followed by Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) with 73 seats. The Democratic Party (PD) of outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono received 61 seats. Three Islamic parties – the National Mandate Party (PAN), National Awakening Party (PKB), and United Development Party (PPP) – increased their total vote share, taking 49, 47, and 39 seats, respectively. A fourth, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), fell to 40 seats. NasDem and the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) won the remainder, with 35 and 16 seats, respectively. Irregularities were reported in some regions, including political violence during the preelection period in Aceh and voter-list inflation, ballot stuffing, and community bloc voting in Papua.

After the new parliament restored direct elections for subnational administrative heads in January 2015, Indonesia in December held nine gubernatorial elections, 36 mayoral elections, and 224 district head elections. Five contests were postponed at the last minute due to legal disputes. The elections were the first in which relatives of incumbent officials were allowed to stand as candidates; in July, the Constitutional Court struck down legislation that had banned family members from contesting elections. An increasing number of local election results have been disputed at the Constitutional Court. Of the 269 jurisdictions that conducted balloting, the court received complaints from 132; Papua generated the largest number of complaints, with 16.

Under a 2012 law, the hereditary sultan of Yogyakarta is that region's unelected governor. The position is nonpartisan, and the sultan is subject to a verification process with minimum requirements – such as education – every five years beginning in 2016. The prince of Paku Alaman serves as deputy governor of the region.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 14 / 16

The right to organize political parties is respected in Indonesia, though in recent years the election laws have been amended to favor large parties by imposing eligibility requirements for parties to run for the parliament or field a presidential candidate. Only 12 parties passed verification processes for the 2014 national elections, down from 48 in 1999. One new national party, NasDem, competed in the 2014 elections. Gerindra and Hanura competed for the first time in 2009.

Some local governments have discriminated against minorities by restricting access to national identification cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other bureaucratic necessities, limiting their political rights and electoral opportunities. However, despite growing religious intolerance and historical hostility toward certain ethnic groups, a number of minority politicians won important posts in 2014, including Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama ("Ahok"), an ethnic Chinese Christian, and DPR member Jalaludin Rakhmat, a Shiite Muslim.

C. Functioning of Government: 6 / 12

Elected officials determine the policies of the government, though national authorities have faced difficulties in implementing decisions due to resistance at the local and regional level. Separately, observers have warned that the military is regaining influence over political and economic affairs. The defense minister appointed by Jokowi in 2014 is a former army chief of staff, breaking with a pattern in which civilians have held the post since 1999, and in recent years the army has signed agreements with various ministries and state companies to provide everything from security at public infrastructure sites to assistance with family planning programs.

Corruption remains endemic, including in the parliament and the police. Indonesia was ranked 88 out of 168 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International's 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index.

In December 2015, Setya Novanto resigned as DPR speaker shortly before he was found guilty, but not sanctioned, by the parliament's Ethics Council. Setya and oil importer Muhammad Riza Chalid were accused of seeking a 20 percent stake in mining company Freeport Indonesia in exchange for an expedited contract renewal. An investigation by the Attorney General's Office (AGO) was ongoing at year's end. Other high-ranking officials who faced arrest, trial, or conviction on corruption charges during 2015 included members of parliament, a former police general, former cabinet ministers, and a former governor.

To a certain extent, Indonesia's partial progress against official corruption has paradoxically handicapped the functioning of government. Risk-averse administrators do not spend their budgets, reducing investments in important areas such as infrastructure. For this reason, Jokowi in August issued a circular to regional leaders assuring them that administrative "errors" related to spending would not be criminalized.

Acrimony between rival agencies has hindered anticorruption efforts. In particular, the KPK and the national police have engaged in a series of disputes since 2009, highlighting fundamental disagreements over governance reform among political elites, as well as Jokowi's weak position vis-à-vis entrenched interests, including those in his own party. Jokowi's nomination of a new national chief of police, Budi Gunawan, in January 2015 set off a chain of events in which KPK leaders and police officials exchanged accusations of criminal wrongdoing. As a public outcry against Budi's possible appointment and alleged corruption grew, Jokowi decided in February to nominate acting police chief Badrodin Haiti to serve as police chief. However, to placate Budi's political backers in the PDI-P, the president installed him as deputy chief. Jokowi also suspended the chairman and deputy chairman of the KPK, and a graft case against Budi was subsequently dropped. In December, after the expiration of the existing KPK's term, five new commissioners were approved by the DPR. Observers warned that the year's events would leave the KPK weakened.

Civil society groups are able to comment on and influence pending policies or legislation. However, government transparency is limited by obstacles such as a 2011 law that criminalizes the leaking of state secrets to the public.

Civil Liberties: 34 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 12 / 16

Indonesia hosts a vibrant and diverse media environment, though press freedom is hampered by a number of legal and regulatory restrictions. Licensing rules are stringent but unevenly enforced, meaning that thousands of television and radio stations operate illegally. Before 2015, foreign journalists were not authorized to travel to the restive provinces of Papua and West Papua without special permission. Jokowi announced in May that the ban would be lifted, though some journalists seeking to visit the region continued to report bureaucratic resistance from security agencies, including visa delays and denials, while those able to work in the provinces noted instances of surveillance and threats against sources.

Treason and blasphemy laws are routinely used to limit freedom of expression by minority groups, separatists, and those criticizing the government and security apparatus. Journalists often practice self-censorship to avoid running afoul of civil and criminal defamation laws. In several cases during 2015, public officials or their alleged proxies brought defamation cases against journalists or one another as part of broader internecine disputes, including those involving the KPK and national police. Reporters sometimes face violence and intimidation, which frequently goes unpunished. A December report by the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) found 47 incidents of violence against journalists in 2015, of which 17 were perpetrated by the police.

Censorship and self-censorship of books and films for allegedly obscene or blasphemous content are fairly common. Official and unofficial censorship has long been in place regarding a period in 1965-66 when alleged members of the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI) were massacred. Communism has since been banned in Indonesia. In recent years, as public dialogue has increased amid the publication of new books and documentaries about the era, censorship has also increased. In October 2015, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was ordered to cancel several events on the 1965 massacres, and a student magazine was forced to destroy all printed copies of an edition that included an article on the topic.

The 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE Law) extended libel and other restrictions to online media, criminalizing the distribution or accessibility of information or documents that are "contrary to the moral norms of Indonesia" or related to gambling, blackmail, or defamation. In March 2015, a woman was sentenced to five months in prison and fined Rp 100 million ($7,500) under the ITE Law for making allegedly indecent statements online; her former husband had accessed her Facebook account and turned the private chat in question over to police. Also that month, a university student was sentenced to two months in prison, six months' probation, and a fine of Rp 10 million ($750) for online comments in which she insulted the province of Yogyakarta.

Indonesia officially recognizes Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, though local customary practices (adat) also exist. Individuals have the option of leaving the religion section of their national identity cards blank, but those who do often face discrimination, and in practice this is rarely done. In 2014, the religious affairs minister affirmed that the Baha'i faith is a religion rather than a sect, but it is not yet included in formal legislation. Atheism is not accepted, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who "distort" or "misrepresent" recognized faiths.

National and local governments have repeatedly failed to protect religious minorities from violence and discrimination, and exhibited bias in investigations and prosecutions. To obtain a permit to build a new house of worship, a religious group must gather the signatures of 90 congregation members and 60 local residents of different faiths. Most older buildings – Muslim or otherwise – do not have such permits, but the law has been used to target houses of minority faiths. Various congregations have struggled to secure local permission to build houses of worship in parts of Java, even when authorized by the Supreme Court. In August 2015, authorities yielded to protesters and halted construction on a properly permitted Roman Catholic Church in West Java. Separately, a Christian mob destroyed a mosque in Papua in July, and Muslim mobs torched three churches in Aceh in October, prompting several thousand Christian residents flee the area. Criminal cases against the suspected instigators were pending at year's end, but the Aceh authorities demolished additional churches due to an alleged lack of building permits.

Violence and intimidation against Ahmadiyya, an Islamic sect with approximately 400,000 Indonesian followers, persisted in 2015, and the central government continued to tolerate discrimination by local governments. In July, an Ahmadiyya mosque in Jakarta was closed by local officials who claimed it lacked the proper permit. In a rare official defense of the group, Jakarta governor Ahok later criticized the closure and said he would help informal Ahmadiyya mosques in residential buildings to secure zoning exemptions. The Shiite Muslim minority has also suffered violence and intimidation, including forced conversion. In October, the mayor of Bogor banned Shiites from assembling to observe Asyura (Ashura).

In recent years, hard-line Islamist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have engaged in raids and extrajudicial enforcement of Sharia (Islamic) bylaws, and pressured local governments to close churches and non-Sunni mosques. Their violent activities are not supported by the country's main Islamic organizations, but they often have the support of high-ranking government officials, and security forces have been criticized for tacitly aiding them by ignoring their abuses. In April 2015, two FPI leaders were sentenced to seven months in jail for inciting a riot in 2014.

Academic freedom in Indonesia is generally respected, and there are no major obstacles to open and free private discussion.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 8 / 12

Freedom of assembly is usually upheld, and peaceful protests are common in the capital. To limit their impact on traffic and business, in October 2015 Ahok tried to restrict all demonstrations to three locations in the capital. After an outcry, the decree was revised in November to remove the location restrictions and other rules, though limits on times and noise levels remained in place. A 2010 regulation allows national police to use live ammunition to quell situations of "anarchic violence."

Authorities have restricted the right to assembly in regions of conflict. Flag-raising ceremonies and independence rallies in Papua are routinely disbanded, often violently, and participants have been tried for treason.

Indonesia hosts a strong and active array of civil society organizations, but some human rights groups are subject to government monitoring and interference. Independence activists in Papua and the Maluku Islands, and labor and political activists in Java and Sulawesi, remain targets for human rights abuses, as do those calling for better regulation of extractive industries. In a rare instance of accountability, the September 2015 murder of environmental activist Salim Kancil, who opposed a local mining operation in East Java, drew public attention and led to the swift arrest of the alleged perpetrators. Such outcomes are far less likely in outlying regions with a smaller media presence.

The 2013 law on mass organizations requires all civic and religious nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to register with the government and submit to regular reviews of their activities. It limits the types of activities NGOs can undertake, and bars them from committing blasphemy or espousing non-Pancasila ideologies, such as atheism and communism. The government is empowered to dissolve noncompliant organizations.

Workers can join independent unions, bargain collectively, and with the exception of civil servants, stage strikes. Legal strikes can be unduly delayed by obligatory arbitration processes, and laws against antiunion discrimination are not well enforced. Some unions have resorted to violence in their negotiations with employers, and labor-related demonstrations are common.

F. Rule of Law: 5 / 16

The judiciary, particularly the Constitutional Court, has demonstrated its independence in some cases, but the court system remains plagued by corruption and other weaknesses. An October 2015 report by Amnesty International found that many defendants are denied proper access to legal counsel, including in death penalty cases. The application of the death penalty for drug-trafficking crimes has been revived under Jokowi; more than a dozen people were executed for such offenses during 2015, including foreign citizens. The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) noted an increase in the number of complaints regarding violations of the right to a fair trial in 2015.

The security forces are also rife with corruption and other abuses, and personnel regularly go unpunished or receive lenient sentences for human rights violations. Military service members accused of crimes against civilians are tried in military courts, which lack impartiality and often impose light punishments. Information garnered through torture is admissible in the courts, and torture carried out by law enforcement officers is not a criminal offense. KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) documented 274 victims of torture between June 2014 and May 2015, including 183 who were subjected to caning in Aceh.

Poor prison governance is compounded by endemic overcrowding. Prison riots and protests over lack of services have led to numerous jailbreaks. Wealthy and high-profile prisoners, including those convicted of corruption, are allegedly able to obtain special privileges and trips outside of prison.

Security forces have been fairly successful in suppressing the country's terrorist networks, though hundreds of Indonesians have reportedly traveled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist groups, raising the threat of future domestic attacks.

Since the 1950s, separatists have waged a low-grade insurgency in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, where the central government's exploitation of natural resources and the heavy police and military presence have stirred resentment. Deadly confrontations between security forces and protesters are common, as are extrajudicial killings, tribal conflict, and violence related to labor disputes at foreign-operated mines and other resource-extraction enterprises. Jokowi has made achieving peace and development in Papua a priority of his presidency. In May 2015 he pardoned five jailed separatists, and leading political prisoner Filep Karma was released in November after a sentence reduction for good behavior, though many prisoners refused to apply for clemency and thereby admit guilt. Jokowi also called for an end to Indonesia's transmigration program in the region; the program relocates poor families from densely populated areas, especially Java, to other parts of the country, fueling tensions in Papua. However, the minister of transmigration later contradicted the president, saying the program was successful and would continue.

A number of districts have issued local ordinances based on Sharia that in many cases are unconstitutional, contradict Indonesia's international human rights commitments, or are difficult to enforce due to lack of clarity. Many are never reported to the Home Affairs Ministry for review. In October 2015, Aceh implemented a new Sharia-based criminal code that applies to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. It bans all sexual relations outside of marriage and criminalizes same-sex sexual activity, among other restrictions. A group of civil society organizations filed a request for review at the Constitutional Court, which was ongoing at year's end.

LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people face widespread discrimination, harassment by local officials, and attacks by hard-line Islamist groups that sometimes enjoy support from local authorities. In addition to the many local bylaws – in Aceh and elsewhere – that effectively criminalize LGBT people, a 2008 antipornography law labels same-sex sexual acts as "deviant." Transgender people are routinely arrested and sent for counseling. In September 2015, two women were arrested by Sharia police in Aceh for allegedly being lesbian; the two women had been seen hugging in public.

Ethnic Chinese, who make up less than 3 percent of the population but are resented by some for reputedly holding much of the country's wealth, continue to face harassment.

Indonesia granted temporary protection to thousands of refugees and migrants who were stranded at sea during 2015, but the country is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not accept refugees for asylum and resettlement.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 9 / 16

Freedom of travel and choice of residence, employment, and higher education are generally respected. However, the ability to obtain private business licenses and public employment is often limited by the need for bribes or other inducements. Corruption also affects businesses' daily operations and routine interactions with the state bureaucracy.

Property rights are threatened by mining and logging activity on communal land and state appropriation of land claimed by indigenous groups, particularly in Kalimantan. In 2015, KontraS recorded 40 violations of land rights, which typically involved harassment and violence by the police and military. In 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled that indigenous people have the right to manage "customary forest" lands they inhabit. A March 2015 ministerial regulation called for mining and plantation companies to allocate at least 20 percent of their land concessions for management and use by local people, though many companies reportedly failed to comply.

Discrimination against women persists, including in the workplace. Working men receive tax benefits that are unavailable to their wives, as husbands are deemed the heads of households. A 2008 law states that 30 percent of a political party's candidates and board members must be women. In 2014, 94 women (approximately 17 percent) were elected to the 560-seat DPR, a slight decrease from the previous term. Abortion is illegal except to save a woman's life or in instances of rape. Adults over 15 years of age must have corroboration and witnesses to bring rape charges. Sharia-based ordinances in a number of districts infringe on women's constitutional rights, and the ordinances' restrictions on dress, public conduct, and sexual activity are disproportionately enforced against women and LGBT people. Marriages must be conducted under the supervision of a recognized religion, which can sometimes obstruct interfaith marriages; civil marriage is not possible. Women applying to work for the police and military must undergo "virginity tests."

Many Indonesian workers are trafficked abroad for forced labor, including women in domestic service and men in the fishing industry. Traffickers are often able to avoid punishment due to corruption among law enforcement officials.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

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