Seven out of nine judges at the Indonesian constitutional court ruled on 27 October, that the Government acted lawful by imposing an internet shutdown during the ‘West Papua Uprising’. The Uprising was triggered by the racist persecution of Papuan students in Java and later swept across 23 towns in West Papua and 17 cities in Indonesia between 19 August and 30 September 2019. Human rights observers are concerned that the ruling has set a precedent which will enable the Government to stifle the media freedom and may even threaten the democracy in Indonesia.
The lawsuit was filed by Arnolds Belau, the director of Papuan news outlet ‘Suara Papua’ and the Indonesian ‘Alliance of Independent Journalists’ (AJI) in late 2019 following the government’s decision to shut down the internet access in West Papua for several weeks. The plaintiffs asked the constitutional court to assess whether Article 40 paragraph (2b) of the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (ITE Law) on restriction of access to the internet was constitutional.
The judges represent the view that the government has the obligation to restrict the access to the internet or order a shutdown in order to guarantee security and maintain public order in case of an unrest. Moreover, mechanisms the law had set recovery procedures for the internet, which ensure that the obligations and rights of all parties are fulfilled.
On 3 June 2020, the Jakarta State Administrative Court had ruled that the internet ban imposed by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and the Minister for Communication and Informatics was against the principle of governance. The judges elaborated, that the blockage of internet services violates multiple statutory provisions, including Article 40 paragraph (2a) and (2b) of the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (ITE Law). The Government may block internet content that violates the law but is not allowed to block all internet services, as the internet is a neutral media which may be used for positive as well as negative activities.