Outrage in Indonesia at bid to revive presidential insult law

The move to reintroduce the law, which could see those who insult the president in public jailed for up to five years, sparked anger online.
The move to reintroduce the law, which could see those who insult the president in public jailed for up to five years, sparked anger online. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA (AFP) - A bid by the Indonesian government to revive an authoritarian-era law that makes insulting the president a crime sparked outrage on Thursday, with thousands taking to social media to denounce the plan.

The administration of President Joko Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi, this week proposed reinstating legislation which was used by former dictator Suharto to silence critics during his three decades in power.

The Constitutional Court revoked the law in 2006, eight years after the downfall of Suharto and the introduction of democracy, ruling that it undermined freedom of speech.

The move to reintroduce the law, which could see those who insult the president in public jailed for up to five years, sparked anger online.

"Shameless," said Twitter user SangPemburu99.

"The president should and must be able to be criticised because he, as the head of the government, is running an agenda that concerns the public," tweeted Haris Azhar, chairman of prominent rights group Kontras.

The proposal has also faced criticism in parliament, with most lawmakers opposing it, meaning it is unlikely to become law.

Widodo, whose popularity has fallen after a series of policy missteps, has argued that the revival of the law is aimed at protecting presidents as the symbol of the state.

Teten Masduki, a presidential spokesman, also insisted the law would not be used to suppress criticism.