iStand, iSpeak

14 Feb

No, this is not a review about the newest Apple product.  Rather, it is my attempt to verbalize my response to the newest setback in Indonesian realm of democracy:  the notorious RPM Konten, – a regulation draft by its Minister of Communication and Information regarding Multimedia Content.

Racking my brains in every way I could, I fail to see any other appropriate response of any responsible citizen than to stand up and speak, -hence the title of this post.  It is also my hope that others may ride on the momentum to reject the Draft and begin to collectively speak out against this heinous experiment to silence the voice of reason.  In fact, if enough people raise their voice, the “i” will then absorb a new meaning: a movement where Indonesia Stand and Speak out as a nation.


Humbly, in this short post I am going to offer one simple, fundamental idea.  Granted, any kind of controversial government regulation will usually affect only its citizens.  However, it is my belief that should this Draft get ratified, it will have a possible disturbing implications to the world at large.  Not only Indonesian citizens will suffer the consequences, but very possibly, the effect will spread over the geographical boundaries of the country.  Here is my try to examine why.

First of all, let’s understand that the Draft is just limited to regulate content disseminated electronically through the means of telecommunications, broadcasting, and information technology.  It didn’t say anything about the content of print media. Nor did it try to explicitly censor the multimedia content of electronic media, -or did it?  Electronic media and Internet is rapidly becoming the main mode of information dissemination in the world, mainly because its rapidity, and precisely because its versatility in giving you different point-of-views from various angles.  I don’t know about others, but I will maintain that any regulated effort to limit what you can say is synonymous with censorship, -and thus, a direct violation of the freedom of speech.  Take for instance, the article 5 of the Draft ( taken from an excellent translation by a team of legal professionals at HAKItree ), which states that:

“Organizer may not distribute, transmit, and/or make accessible Content that contains content that degrades the physical conditions and abilities, intellectual, service, skills, and physical aspects of physical and other non physical from another party.”

It is plain to see that this is a pathetic attempt of censorship.  Censorship is never all wrong.  In fact, I think it is necessary under a very special set of circumstances, where the material to be limited are of grievous criminal nature like child pornography, as an example.  However, most of available information of any other nature should be allowed to spread without borders for a very simple reason:  because knowledge should be accessible to all.  It is when some parties try to limit this latter group of information that things could go very wrong.  To go back to the stated example, if you read carefully, it mentioned that it is forbidden to disseminate any information “that contains content that degrades……. service….”.  This is problematic, because under this jurisdiction, a person would not be able to publicly write a complaint of any service he/she may have had in Indonesia.  It is still very fresh in our mind the recent case of Prita, a mother who was sued and found guilty for voicing out her disappointment over a health service of a hospital in Indonesia.  This Draft, if ratified, will legalize such attempt to silence any complaint about any service in Indonesia, however valid its nature is.


Moving on to why the censorship embodied in this Draft is potentially disturbing for the rest of the world, followings are several hypothetical troubling scenarios. (Note the word “hypothetical”; by no means am I saying the the Indonesian government will necessarily act like this ).

First, terrorism.  Let’s face it, whether we like to admit it or not, Indonesia has its history of terrorism.  From the Bali Bombings until the Marriott Bombings, we certainly witnessed our land being the arena where the terrorists operates, -if not a direct base and hotbed of them.  If this Draft is passed, what other alternative sources will be available to the world about the local scene of terrorism, other than what’s being provided by the Indonesian government?  Terrorism, by nature, is almost always globally orchestrated, transcending the boundaries of nations.  How then will a responsible citizen offer any information of a suspicious activities of his/her neighbor when he/she is forbidden to state anything that may be classified as “untrue or not in accordance with facts relating to a tribe, religion, race, or class….?”  Will this be productive in the context of the global attempt to eradicate terrorism?  What if, -just for the sake of argument, Indonesia is governed by a regime who silently supports a fundamentalist group?  Will it not mean that the field will be wide open for disinformation by the government to protect the group, which by any other sane definition will be classified as dangerous terrorists?

Second, HIV/AIDS. Anybody who reads about HIV/AIDS issue will understand the crucial role the government plays to curb the spread of the disease.  Why do you think South Africa has such an alarming rate of the disease’s prevalence?  Indonesia, because of its sheer population, and the perpetual drug-related problems, has also seen its share of increase of HIV/AIDS infection in recent years.  Now, what will happen to a well-meaning NGO who regularly perform a life-saving effort by handing out condoms?  It’s easy to say that such institutions will feel the need to explain their motivations to do so because of the religious nature of the majority of Indonesians.  The easier way to do it is by writing out their reasons in their personal blog or websites.  The newest Draft will probably punish them for doing so because their content may be deemed and “categorized legally as Content violating decency.”  Who will determine what’s decent and what’s not?  It is not a secret that the local airs are rampant with the ignorant religious leaders and clergymen who still think that condoms means encouraging people to engage in free sex.  Also, in a country where there were plans to legalize the necessity of “HIV-free certificate” as a precondition to marriage, I find it doubtful that they really understand the management of an epidemy.  How will this help the efforts to slow down the spreading of this infectious disease?  And if Indonesians are rapidly becoming infected with HIV/AIDS, is it hard to imagine that they will have a much bigger chance to spread it to their fellow citizens of the world?

Third, corruption. Corruption remains a chronic problem in Indonesian society and culture.  It is of inherent nature in its collective consciousness.  How else would you explain the bribes you routinely give in small daily business like traffic violations or administrative matters like making your ID cards?  Again, where could you find the media’s function as a corruption watchdog, when a journalist’s article exposing corrupt government practices will prove to be a punishable offense, because it’s classified as a “content that degrades the abilities, intellectual, service…….. from another party”?  Rather easy to imagine, a corrupt Indonesian system will be troublesome to the global economic system.  It will prove to be a painful thorn on the world’s side.


Those are just some of the worst implications of the Draft, should it get passed by the current government.  And let’s not even begin to venture into the area of moral arguments, where censorship is almost always wrong.  To me, the three stated reasons alone are enough to make me lose my sleep.  I can accept that the Minister may be well-meaning in drafting this regulation.  Yet as so often happened before in Indonesia, he did not do enough forward thinking to deliberate and ponder the consequences of what he’s about to legalize.  What he also fails to understand, is that the consequences may also have impacts to other nations.  Faced with such a blatant stupidity, I chose to stand and speak.  Will you?


NOTE : Picture taken from here.


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