Muzzling Messengers

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Indonesia is planning to revamp the country’s broadcasting laws, a proposal that has stirred controversy about plans to restrict investigative journalism and prompted concerns from free speech advocates, the Voice of America reported.

Officials recently unveiled a draft bill that will amend Indonesia’s 2002 broadcasting law, which would include changes such as banning LGBTQ+ content and “behavior” and prohibiting the broadcast of professions of figures that show “negative behaviors or lifestyles that could potentially be imitated by the public.”

But of chief concern for journalists and media watchdogs are two proposals, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation noted.

The first will empower the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) to “resolve journalistic disputes specifically in the field of broadcasting.” The second will impose restrictions on the “exclusive broadcast of journalistic investigation,” with the bill not properly defining “journalistic investigation.”

Critics said that empowering the KPI – which traditionally handles all broadcast content, except for journalism – could weaken the country’s Press Council and the latter’s role in protecting Indonesia’s press freedoms.

They warned that the restrictions on investigative journalism and the bill’s vagueness could “potentially undermine journalistic work, not limited to investigation because its interpretation is still unclear.”

Indonesian lawmakers acknowledged some of the concerns related to the proposed legislation but denied that the government wants to regulate press freedom. They explained that some of the changes come after input from law enforcement agencies who want to limit reporting on some cases.

Meanwhile, media watchdogs remained critical of the proposal to ban LGBTQ+ content.

Homosexuality remains a taboo topic in Muslim-majority Indonesia and it is considered illegal in the ultra-conservative Aceh province – which is subject to Sharia law.

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