15 March 2018

A new law that came into force on Thursday (15 March) provides that anyone criticising a national politician could be jailed. The law received widespread criticism as a setback for democracy. President Joko Widodo refused to sign off on the controversial legislation. But he does not have the power to veto the bill. The bill can be challenged in constitutional court.

A spokesman for the Constitutional court said it had already received three petitions challenging the law, but it could take months before it delivers a decision.

At least eight lawmakers have been arrested for corruption in recent past, including former house speaker Setya Novanto who is on trial in one of the country’s biggest-ever graft scandals. The new law could block probes by the Corruption Eradication Commission.  Any investigation of a parliamentarian would have to be approved by the House Ethics Council under the new law.

Last year, the government issued a decree allowing the country to ban groups that oppose its official state ideology. This has caused concern among many about freedom of speech and human rights, amidst endemic corruption and poor performance among some members of Indonesia’s political system.