A Statement from CIVICUS forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

In Indonesia, civic space remains rated as “obstructed”. Among the main concerns are the use of restrictive laws, including defamation provisions against human rights defenders and journalists as well as harassment and threats against them. The authorities have criminalised Papuan activists for their peaceful expression while protests across Indonesia have been met with arbitrary arrests and excessive force from the police.

In March 2024, Prabowo Subianto was formally confirmed as Indonesia’s next president. Prabowo and his vice-presidential running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, won 59 percent, or more than 96 million votes. Prabowo, a former military officer, was dishonourably discharged in 1998 for his involvement in the abduction of political opponents of former president Suharto, of whom 13 remain missing to this day, but he has never faced trial.

Amnesty International’s annual report published in April 2024 highlighted how, in 2023, peaceful demonstrators were arrested, and excessive force was used to break up protests. Pro-independence activists in Papua were imprisoned.

In May 2024, the UN Human Rights Committee published its concluding observations following a review of Indonesia’s record on civil and political rights in March 2024.

The Committee raised concerns about laws, including the Electronic Information and Transactions Law No. 11/2008, which can be used to criminalise defamation or insulting the President or public officials. It was also concerned about reports of Internet shutdowns during protests and regular shutdowns in relation to security operations in Papua and Ministerial Regulation No. 5/2020 on Private Electronic System Operators which has been used to block web pages.

The Committee also raised concerns about laws that impose registration, administration and other procedures on peaceful protesters and NGOs that are inconsistent with the principles of legal certainty, necessity and proportionality. The Committee noted reports of harassment, intimidation, surveillance and excessive use of force faced by peaceful protesters, civil society, students and other groups.

In recent months, a civil society forum on water rights was disrupted by the authorities and non-state actors and an indigenous leader was abducted for resisting the paper industry. There were ongoing restrictions and crackdown on protests in Papua as well as protests by students in Makassar. Students in Papua were arrested and ill-treated for having the Morning Star flag on their clothes, and the revision of the Law on Broadcasting could stifle press freedom. On a positive note, the courts revoked provisions criminalising “fake news” and defamation as well as the conviction of an environmental defender.


A civil society forum on water rights was disrupted and forced to be cancelled in May 2024, with activists and organisers facing harassment and intimidation.

The People’s Water Forum (PWF), a civil society coordinating platform for water justice movements around the world, was scheduled to be held in Denpasar, Bali, from 21-23 May 2024, a parallel event to the World Water Forum (WWF) that took place from 18-25 May 2024. However, ahead of the forum there were reports that the authorities were harassing the Bintang Gana Foundation, a local organisation representing the PWF national committee, since early May 2024, with visits to their director’s house by police and military intelligence.

The authorities also reportedly put pressure on the venue owner to postpone or cancel the forum. The social media accounts of PWF organisers were also hacked and the PWF website was trolled by individuals. Intelligence officers also monitored the accommodation of activists on 18th May.

On 20th May 2024, a pre-event discussion hosted by the PWF at a hotel in Denpasar was violently disrupted by members of a local nationalist group called Patriot Garuda Nusantara (PGN). According to Amnesty International, the group had repeatedly visited the event site before the discussion, demanding the cancellation of the PWF’s event. Video footage shows the group destroying event banners and billboards and physically attacking forum participants.

Pedro Arrojo Agudo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, was prevented by security forces from entering the PWF 2024. He and the PWF representatives accompanying him were forced to leave.

The PWF was cancelled after professors and university institutions were also pressured to withdraw their offer of premises for PWF related activities.

UN independent experts said on 30th May 2024 that they were “deeply disturbed by reports of threats and intimidation towards human rights and water defenders, civil society organisations and academics that compelled the cancellation of the PWF.”

Sorbatua Siallagan, an Indigenous leader on Sumatra island, was abducted in March 2024 for wanting to keep the paper industry out of his people’s forest.

Sorbatua Siallagan, the leader of Dolok Parmonangan, an Indigenous Batak community, was shopping with his wife on 22nd March 2024, when ten people in civilian clothes approached him, dragged him into a car and took him away without a warrant. His family and village did not know what had happened to him.

Only in the evening did they learn that Sorbatua Siallagan had been taken to a jail in Medan, 160 km away. He was interrogated without a lawyer present and was accused of “illegal activities”. He has been accused of burning the forest that was part of the concession of the pulp company Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) and occupying it without permission. Activists believe that the criminalisation of the Indigenous leader is based on a complaint filed by TPL. It was reported that he was released from detention on 17th April.

TPL built plants for the production of paper, pulp and viscose and was granted a concession for hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest by the state, at the expense of nature and local communities. Hundreds of land disputes remain unresolved to this day.



Protests in Papua continue to face restrictions, arrest and excessive force with impunity.

According to the Human Rights Monitor, on 2nd April 2024, the Papuan Student and Peoples Front Against Militarism (FMRPAM) called for peaceful protests against militarisation in Papua and in response to a video of military members torturing an Indigenous Papuan in the Puncak Regency in February 2024. Police officers reportedly prevented activists from distributing leaflets for the demonstration. They carried out arbitrary arrests of at least 62 protesters and temporarily detained them at Jayapura District Police Station. The police also cracked down on protesters by using teargas and batons

Police dispersed a peaceful demonstration organised by the “Papuan Peoples Front Caring for Human Rights” (FRPHAMP) in the town of Nabire, Papua Tengah province on 5th April 2024. At least eight protesters were reportedly subjected to excessive force when police dispersed the protest with rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and wooden batons. Police reportedly detained 27 protesters during the demonstration and there were allegations of torture and ill-treatment of at least one person in detention. Four journalists, all Indigenous Papuans, were prevented from covering the crackdown despite showing their press cards. Officers collectively beat journalist Melkianus Dogopia and seized his mobile phone.


On 6th May 2024, police arrested six students in Nabire, Central Papua for painting their clothes with the banned Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence and cultural identity.

According to Amnesty International, students celebrated graduation by parading in school uniforms on the streets. Some of them wore their uniforms with the Morning Star flag painted on them. At least nine students were chased by two plainclothes police in a two-wheeled vehicle in Wonorejo, Nabire. The two police officers allegedly shot four live bullets at the students in the presence of other students, accompanied by alleged beatings. Those arrested were taken to the Nabire police station. The police also prohibited residents from taking photos of the arrest.


Press freedom groups have raised concerns around revisions to a broadcasting law that could undermine freedom of expression.

In May 2024, a revision of Law Number 32 of 2002, concerning Broadcasting was proposed by Commission I of the House of Representatives. A number of articles in the proposed revision of the law could be used to suppress press freedom and remove the constitutional right to obtain information.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), under the bill, electronic and television broadcasts of “exclusive investigative journalism” would be restricted, thereby limiting the public’s access to important information and undermining democratic transparency and accountability.

The revised Broadcasting Bill also contains measures restricting the broadcast of reports on LGBTQIA+ persons and behaviours and “professions or figures with negative lifestyles” among others, imposing severe sanctions for violations, ranging from written warnings to licence revocation.

Another controversial provision in the bill is that it aims to expand the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission’s (KPI) authority in resolving any journalistic disputes in broadcasting, a role currently held by the Press Council, according to the press law. Critics argue this change would undermine the authority of the Press Council in seeking resolution to public complaints on cases related to press coverage. Hence, the proposed change to the law could lead to overlap between the two jurisdictions: the Press Council and the KPI.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Chairperson Nani Afrida said: “This bill clearly aims to restrict investigative journalism, which is a cornerstone of a free press. By curbing the ability of journalists to conduct and broadcast investigative work, the government is effectively trying to silence critical voices and limit public scrutiny.”

IF General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Press freedom is a pillar of democracy, and any attempt to curtail it is an attack on democratic values. The Broadcasting Bill in Indonesia is a regressive step that will hinder journalists from performing their duties and restrict the flow of information. We stand in solidarity with our Indonesian colleagues and call on the government to respect and uphold press freedom.”

Responding to the protests and concerns of various groups, legislators assured the public that the bill would reflect the government’s commitment to uphold free speech. On 28th May 2024, the House of Representatives said that it was postponing deliberations on the proposed bill.


In March 2024, the Constitutional Court ruled to revoke three “fake news” and defamation clauses from the country’s 1946 criminal code.

On 21st March 2024, the Constitutional Court, declared Article 14 and Article 15 of Law No. 1/1946 which regulate distribution of “fake news” unconstitutional as the provisions were incompatible with Article 28D of the 1945 Constitution of Indonesia. The court also revoked Article 310 Paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code regarding defamation.

The decision was based on petitions presented by human rights advocates Haris Azhar and Fatiah Maulidiyanti, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), and the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI).

According to the Constitutional Court judges, these articles do not provide recognition, guarantees, protection and certainty of a just law and equal treatment before the law for every citizen as guaranteed in the Indonesian Constitution.

However, the court declined to grant the request put forth by the petitioners for the repeal of other articles, including Article 27 Paragraph (3) and Article 45 Paragraph (3) of Law No. 9/2016 on Electronic Information and Transactions (EIT). The law has been used to criminalise online expression.

In May 2024, a high court overturned the conviction of environmental activist Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan for highlighting the damage caused by illegal shrimp farms in a protected marine park.

As previously documented, in January 2024, environmental activist Daniel Tangkilisan was detained and charged under Article 28(2) of the draconian Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) law for allegedly spreading hate speech on social media. Since 2016, Daniel and his colleagues have been raising concerns about the existence of illegal shrimp farms that are rampant on the island of Karimunjawa that have impacted on the environment and caused pollution.

On 4th April 2024, he was convicted and sentenced to seven months in jail by the Jepara High Court and fined five million rupiah (USD 315).

However, on 21st May 2024 the Semarang High Court in Central Java province quashed the sentence, saying that while Daniel evidently made the statement, he was also proven to be defending the right to a healthy environment, which is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution.

The NGO Public Interest Lawyer Network (Pil-Net) Indonesia said: “Daniel’s exoneration should be a whip for the Indonesian police and attorney general’s office to be careful in applying the law so as not to criminalise activists.”

Three fellow activists also face prosecution under the same charges for posting a video of their opposition to the polluting shrimp farms in Karimunjawa.