Cartoons of Prophet Muhammed in the Internet Age: Indonesia
Is there any press freedom in Indonesia? Yes! Our constitution
guarantees the freedom of speech. Article 28 of the Constitution said,
“Kemerdekaan berserikat dan berkumpul, mengeluarkan pikiran dengan
lisan dan tulisan dan sebagainya, ditetapkan dengan Undang-undang.”
(Freedom of association and assembly, of verbal and written expression
and the like, shall be prescribed by law).
More than that, press freedom has been guaranteed since 1966, by UU
No. 11 Tahun 1966. Article 4 said, “National Press is free from
censorship and banning.” But, once again, it is only on the
Constitution and Law.
Though our Constitution guarantee freedom of worship through Article
29, on blasphemy case, we have Section 156(a) of the Indonesian
Criminal Code which prohibits conduct that affronts a “recognized
religion” (identified as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism
or Protestantism). Section 19 of the Main Press Ordinance 1982
prohibits publication of blasphemous material, permitting prosecution
of authors and publishers and withdrawal of the publishing license.
In my opinion, should we choose press freedom when there were 30-40
militants who were ready to set fire to our office? Or, should we
choose freedom of speech if we have to hurt our neighbors on their
belief? Shouldn’t we love than hurting them?
Regarding the principle of our foundation, the “Bhinneka Tunggal
Ika” (Diversity in Unity), I agree with Jakob Oetama’s opinion. In one
of his books, he said, individual freedom is highly respected and
guaranteed in Indonesia, but it has to be done in the spirit of
collective freedom. “Semangatnya berbeda dengan semangat konstitusi
negara-negara Barat yang lebih menjamin kebebasan individu,” he said.
(The spirit is different from Western Constitution which respects more
on individual freedom).
From Indonesian point of view, reprinting the cartoons in order to
make a point about free speech is an act of senseless brinkmanship.
What more important here is responsibility in using right of freedom in
the spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding. In a free country,
people should be free to publish whatever they want within the limits
set by law.
What I find particularly disturbing is a lack of appreciation that
such works would hand to a small pocket of extremists’ ammunition with
which to fulfill their own agenda. This is where the judgment to
publish and republish has failed us all.
I think, the international community must not come out of the
cartoon crisis broken and divided. We need to build more bridges
between religions, civilizations, and cultures. Let’s cultivate
democracies of freedom and tolerance, not democracies of freedom versus
tolerance. It is tolerance that protects freedom, harnesses diversity,
strengthens peace and delivers progress.
 Oetama, Jakob, Perspektif Pers Indonesia, LP3ES, Jakarta, 1987, page 79