Lawmakers slam proposal to criminalise insulting president

Legislators have criticised Indonesian President Joko Widodo for a proposal to criminalise insulting the president, saying the move harks back to the authoritarian past. 

A new criminal code proposed by the government includes a clause stipulating that publicly insulting the president is punishable by up to five years in jail.

Similar provisions used to muzzle critics in the past were annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2006, in a ruling widely welcomed by rights groups.

“The president can’t revive something that has been annulled by the Constitutional Court,” said Fadli Zon, a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives from the opposition Gerindra Party.

“Maybe the president was not aware of the court’s decision,” he said.

Soeharto, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for three decades until 1998, sent critics to jail under the draconian law.

A legislator from the Golkar Party, Syamsuddin Aziz, said the House was unlikely to endorse the clause on insulting the president.

“As head of state and government the president must have legal protection, but this can’t be at the expense of freedom of expression,” he said.

Jokowi said Tuesday that the clause was intended to protect critics from arbitrary charges.

“Those who want to criticise me, go ahead,” he said. “I get used to being mocked, insulted and ridiculed.”

“If I had wanted to, I could have sued them. But I haven’t done such a thing.”

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