Controversy highlights tension between religion and press in Indonesia
Imam Tri Karso Hadi, the chief editor of the Indonesian tabloid Peta, was charged with religious blasphemy for reprinting the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Article 156 of Indonesia's Criminal Code prescribes a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment for such offences.
Indonesia's press law covers both print and broadcast media and outlines both protections and criminal penalties for journalists who breach the law. It states that the Indonesian Constitution of 1945 guarantees freedom of the press as a basic human right.
Press organizations nevertheless are prohibited from publishing advertisements that seek to defame a particular religion and its followers. The law further prohibits the publication of any advertisements that may cause disharmony among religious groups. National media outlets are also obliged to follow religious and moral norms when reporting events and issuing opinions.
The cartoon controversy has brought light to the tension between freedom of expression and religious law in Indonesia. This tension has been further highlighted by the recent controversy involving Playboy magazine. The Jakarta Post reports that on Apr. 12, 2006 about 100 protesters -- some news agencies reported that the figure was as high as 300 -- stormed the magazine's Jakarta office, attempting to stop future publications.
The fallout from this controversy has also resulted in increased calls for a pornography bill which would, among other things, impose fines on women who do not cover "sensitive" body parts -- critics of the bill argue that the bill not only criminalizes sexuality in the media and arts, but also restricts personal freedoms as well.
On May 11, 2006 another bill proposing the imposing of shari'a law on all non-Muslims in the province of Aceh has further increased concerns regarding the freedom of expression of minority groups, especially with regard to religious questions.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, "The publication of the caricatures is clearly an insensitivity towards the perception and beliefs of a religious group." Yudhoyono further added that the cartoons were an "insult to religious symbols and have hurt the feelings of Muslims."
The president appealed to Muslims in Indonesians to remain calm and said the government had accepted apologies from Denmark's Prime Minster and Jyllands-Posten's editors.
- West and Islam need not clash (The Age)
The cartoon crisis reminds us of the importance of respect and tolerance, writes the President of Indonesia
- Cartoon riots a spur to understand roots of anger (Straits Times)
The cartoons hurt Muslims badly because they add real insult to real injuries, writes Kishore Mahbubani
- A battle won, the war rages on (Jakarta Post)
The Supreme Court overturns a ruling that made the press accountable to Indonesia's Criminal Code, but government repression the press continues, says a Jakarta Post editorial
- Bad press (Jakarta Post)
The Indonesian government subverts own democratic role by threatening freedom of the press, says a Jakarta Post editorial
- UNESCO assisted Internews in drafting the English text of Indonesia's press law
Internews offers an extensive collection of media laws online in a several languages
Date Posted: 5/18/2006