HRW calls on Indonesia government to protect student journalism News
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HRW calls on Indonesia government to protect student journalism

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement Monday calling on the Indonesian government to implement stronger protections for student journalists in the country.

HRW called on the government to create a task force “to devise and put in place an agreement to protect student journalists and their publications.” HRW also called for a new agreement between the Indonesian Police and the Dewan Pers, the Indonesian national press council, to shield student journalists from frivolous defamation accusations.

The Indonesian Student Press Association (PPMI) documented 185 instances where student journalists were allegedly abused between 2020-2021, with a substantial number of these cases taking place on the island of Java. One case that has drawn international media attention is that of the student news website of Ahmad Dahlan University in Yogyakarta: the Poros. Anhar Anshori, head of the university’s book publications, allegedly forced the site to take down a commentary article critical of a professor who allegedly required students to purchase his book.

The Indonesian Press Law, which established Dewan Pers, defines press outlets through their independent legal status, meaning that student press organizations are not protected due to their affiliation with a university. This lack of protection also extends to defamation cases against student journalists. Dewan Pers-regulated press outlets are protected under a 2017 memorandum from police intervention, with the Dewan Pers having the right to resolve all defamation disputes. However, because the Dewan Pers does not protect student journalists, students are subject to police intervention in cases of alleged defamation.

According to Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2023 Press Freedom Index, released May 3, Indonesia ranks 108 of 180 in overall freedom of the press, with RSF labeling Indonesia’s press freedom situation “difficult.”