The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) highlighted the repressive attitude of the University of Indonesia (UI) towards students of the University Indonesia Student Executive Board (BEM UI). We strongly condemn all forms of silencing of expression and opinion, especially in academic spaces and environment, such as on campus.
On 27 June 2021, through Invitation Letter or Surat Undangan Surat Undangan Nomor 915/UN2.RI.KMHS/PDP.00.04.00/202, Universitas Indonesia (UI) summoned 10 students to come meet the UI Director of Student Affairs. This invitation letter is a response to BEM UI’s content upload through their social media accounts criticizing President Jokowi as the King of Lip Service. UI then, through its Public Relations Bureau stated that the summons was made due to the posting of the poster meme ‘Jokowi: The King of Lip Service’ was rated not as a true expression of opinion and was deemed to have violated the applicable rules. However, it did not specify the form of the rules that were violated by the publication of the post made by BEM UI. The summon was also intended as a form of student development on campus.
We see that this kind of summons is an indication of the suppression of academic freedom on campus. It also confirms that campus is indeed no longer a safe place for students to voice their opinions. Universities should be able to protect academic freedom, and not regulate student expression.
We also think that what the UI Rectorate has done through its Director of Student Affairs has violated the principles of education regulated in Articles 4 and 24 of the National Education System Law (UU No. 23/2000 Regarding the National Education System Law). The Article 4 (1) states that education is held in a democratic and fair manner and is not discriminatory by upholding human rights, religious values, cultural values, and national pluralism. Meanwhile, higher education is also required to uphold the freedom of the academic pulpit and scientific autonomy as regulated in Article 24 of the same regulation.
In addition, these actions that UI have done even also violated The 9 UI values, also known as 9 Nilai Dasar Universitas Indonesia, one of which includes the academic freedom and scientific autonomy value. This value requires the entire UI academic community to uphold the freedom to express their thoughts and opinions within the UI environment and in other academic forums. However, the summoning of 10 UI students who argued through BEM’s social media accounts was definitely far from implementing these values.
We consider the actions taken by BEM UI through their postings as a form of freedom to express legitimate opinions as regulated in national and international human rights legal instruments. Public expression of opinion, both in the public and digital spaces, is guaranteed in Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution, Undang-Undang No. 9/1998 Regarding the Freedom to Express Opinions in Public, and also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which has been ratified through Undang-Undang No. 12/2005.
Although this case has not yet touched the criminal realm, we assess the potential for similar cases to continue to the policing stage as there is still the ITE Law (Undang-Undang No. 11/2008 Regarding Electronic Information and Transactions) which contains defamation offenses and can capture those who are being critical in the digital space at any time. Not to mention that the Draft of Criminal Code currently also reactivates the offense of insulting the President, although it has been annulled by the Constitutional Court. The rubber articles will be revived and ready to criminalize those who actively criticize policies and words that come out of the President’s mouth, especially those considered as political opponents of the government.
The case of silencing UI students’ academic freedom is a long series of practices to silence student expression on campus. Students who are critical are often shackled by the campus rectorate’s anti-critical attitude. What happened to BEM UI now actually also happened before when they issued their attitudes and stances in response to discrimination in Papua and the disbandment of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Likewise similar cases also happened in other campuses as well such at Unas, Unilak, Unkhair, UBL and UGM. Students are often silenced and even dropped out and policed by the Chancellor. The variety of cases shows the campus arbitrariness towards student activism which has implications for the shrinking of civic space. This is also counterproductive to the Kampus Merdeka discourse which has always been promoted by the Minister of Education, Nadiem Makarim.
Not until the campus was repressed after the release of the infographic criticizing the President, the social media accounts of several BEM UI functionaries were also hacked. This action makes it difficult for them to log in and access their personal social media accounts. We see hacking as a form of digital terror that aims to create fear. This practice does not happened for the first time. A series of hacking cases often occurs, especially against those who are boldly balancing the government’s discourse. Some of the cases include the hacking of the committee that held the Papua discussion, and also discussions related to the impeachment of the President.
We have seen from several hacking practices and digital attacks that have occurred, the perpetrators have never been clearly identified. The practice of omission is carried out by the State continuously as it causes repetition. This digital terror practice once again, is a serious violation of freedom of expression as it creates a fear effect towards people. Therefore, we urge the Police to thoroughly investigate this hacking practice in order to prevent similar practices from happening in the future.
Jakarta, 28 June 2021
KontraS Worker Body,
Contact Person: Rozy Brillian (082122031647)