Update: Trial on internet blockage in West Papua – Administrative Court rules President and Minister acted unlawfully

On 3 June 2020, the panel of judges at the Jakarta State Administrative Court 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 Indonesian government blocked or throttled the internet services in 54 cities and regencies across Papua and West Papua, from Aug. 21 through Sept. 4, 2019, during the widespread riots and demonstrations against racism. The judges ruled that the defendant party has to pay the court fee of IDR 457,000 (about € 28.85). The verdict did not make any clear statement as to whether President Jokowi and his minister have to make a public apology as the plaintiffs had initially demanded. On 12 June 2020, the Government appealed against the verdict. However, one of the President's staff later said that Jokowi gave the order to withdraw the appeal.

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 is allowed to 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. The judges also represented the view that the Government’s restrictions on the internet access in West Papua disrupted activities and caused negative effects on citizens' economy.

After the verdict, the incumbent Minister for Communication and Informatics, Jonny Platte, stated in a media interview that he will coordinate with lawyers and other Government agencies. According to Platte, he did not find documents in relation to the internet blockage in West Papua which was carried out under his predecessor, Rudiantara. He concluded, that a damage to the infrastructure during the riot could have resulted in the temporary dysfunction of all internet services in West Papua - a rather unlikely scenario.

In early December 2019, a team of lawyers representing the Indonesian NGOs LBH Pers, YLBHI, SafeNet and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of the State Secretary and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to the Jakarta State Administrative Court. The NGOs claimed that the Government institutions shut down and throttled of the internet in West Papua between 21 August and 4 September 2019 without legal foundation. The Indonesian government had justified the blockage as a mean to avoid the spreading of false news, which could lead to a further escalation of the riots.