Wimar comments on Communication Minister statement

09 February 2012

Twitter has become the latest target in Indonesia’s campaign against offensive online material after the government blocked access to almost one million pornography sites last month.

Indonesia’s Minister for Communication and Information Technology says the government will target and block anonymous and offensive accounts on the social networking site.

It isn’t clear what the ministry deems as “offensive”, but based on the Information and Electronic Transactions Law online users can be charged with a range of offences including pornography, threats and blasphemy.

Indonesians are the third-highest users of Twitter globally which may make shutting down offensive material on the site a difficult task.

Presenter: Joanna McCarthy

Speaker: Wimar Witoelar, Indonesian media commentator

Transcribed by: Ariesti Gaos, Perspektif Baru

The interview starts with a comment made by Wimar Witoelar: 

............ The Minister of Communications and Information is noted for his lack of background and in fact his knowledge about the internet ecosystem, so every time he utters a controversial statement like this, the hardest part for people is to understand what he is referring to. My guess is since he is a political appointee who was the chairman of the Islamic leading party that he uses the forum to utter moralistic phrases, while not really knowing how implementable his comments are and in fact how true they are to the spirit of the Indonesian constitution. In other words, his statement goes against the grain of most internet users and observers.


Well, indeed. There are fifty-five millions internet users in Indonesia. Is it virtually an impossible task to keep track of their activity on Twitter?




Certainly (chuckles), certainly reveals that something about the minister perhaps. Do you think, you mentioned that there are some problems with the constitutional law, constitutional nature of this Law? Do you think it undermines the constitution?


I was not referring to the ITE Law actually but to the political stance the Minister is taking, that pays no heed or les heed to the constitution than to his own personal notions of propriety and morality. He’s a person who supports polygamy, for instance, when most decent minded Indonesians do not. He’s a person who advocates suppression of free flow of information when not many people do anymore, so he is indeed the poorest choice for a Communications Minister the Presidents could have. Maybe he would be proper as in another portfolio. But the constitutionality of the law is not something I have dealt into,

I’m sure there are other more knowledgeable experts on that. Well I do not subscribe to the notion that the Internet should be totally free. But first of all, if you are going to put curbs on the Internet, not only do you have to make sure it is morally right, but you have to make sure as the Government that it is capable of being implemented. Otherwise, you are just a crying wolf, and you know, shouting in the desert. It is really an embarrassment for me as an Indonesian to be interviewed by a radio in Australia about such a ridiculous statement from our Minister. This Minister was many times called, demanded to be replaced, demanded to be reshuffled. And in fact the last reshuffle we thought we would get rid of him but apparently the President likes to keep the political balance which he does represent in an unfortunate aspect of Indonesian multiparty system.


So do you think that this is a proposal that the Indonesian government will take seriously or is it simply a Minister perhaps speaking out of turn?


It is a Minister speaking out of turn and using his position as a bully pulpit.


Indeed. There have been some efforts to block access to more than a million pornography sites in Indonesia, what would you say about the extent to which the Indonesian government does attempt to control the Internet?


Well, of course they hired some software designers. I met one at the airport and he said, “Actually this software is not going to work. But who cares, we got paid anyway.” In fact, after once instituted, the press caught a parliament member from the party of the Minister of Communications  looking at a porn site on his tablet computer on the parliament floor. A picture was taken by a telephoto lens and it became a big scandal. But that shows that, if you cannot control even your own parliament member, how can you control people who enjoy looking at pornography?


and more from GlobalPost.......


Indonesia: offensive Tweets potentially punishable by years in prison

Minister wages war on uncouth Tweets

Indonesian Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring

has announced a war on "offensive" Tweets. (BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

When Tifatul Sembiring's minstry isn'tshutting down non-salacious gay rights Web sites, it's threatening obnoxious Twitter users with a dozen years behind bars.

Tifatul, who heads Indonesia's Ministry of Communications and Information, has suggested that offensive Tweets can be punished with up to 12 years in prison. 

Given the often rancorous nature of Twitter, proactive enforcement would require Indonesia to build lots of new prisons: the nation is the world's third-biggest Twitter market.

But is this campaign driven by the whims of one man?

An Indonesian media commentator, Wimar Witoelar, tells Radio Australia that the Tifatul pays "less heed to the constitution than through his own personal notions of propriety and morality" and that his statement "goes against the grain of most internet users and observers."

Indeed, Islamic piety appears to be Titaful's pet subject and his role as information minister is largely marked by a crusade to rid the Web of wickedness. He's an appointee from the Prosperous Justice Party, which seeks to entrench Islamic values into government. The party, however, can't win elections outright and has pulled in only a marginal percentage of votes in past elections.

Policing online porn with keyword flags is one thing but policing "offensive" Tweets -- whatever that means -- is hugely difficult.

As Wimar suggests, the pious minister may be " just crying wolf and shouting in the desert."

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  1. From Arie on 11 February 2012 06:22:53 WIB
    Minister\'s statement did sound as if he represented his believe, and it is true, why was he not detached from his position, may be for political reason, but how can you find ground to fire someone when his way is not about trying to satisfy milions of Indonesian minds but to follow the path of national constitution Pancasila, his believe IS DEFINETELY NOT against it, the people may not like him but he is lawful, a bit hypocrite but I think, curable.

    funny that Twitter closure treat is not only coming from Indonesia and that cencorship decision is always in anyway relevant to any political notion of a nation (strangely too is not always about religion), this finally leads to censorship made by twitter itself. Indeed shield is needed and should not be against contitutional law, but Indonesian should not overlook the fundamental of sila 1 of Pancasila, God\'s principal was our choice then and now, it is understood better and is now expanding as education quality grows and finally, it gets its well deserved protection and application which is receptive to the present time - that even true lawyers (and I believe God Himself too) are/is trying to re-erect its sacredness from the hands of the contaminated ones. Not to be hypocritical but for example, it is factual that Indonesian observant model in finding their ideal leader has always been by fitting one\'s deeds consistent to God\'s principals, otherwise when there\'s none available one would choose who donates them most money because second to God is economy :). Those who combine the two will usually win.

    They\'ll be hypocrites as Wimar pictures a sample on pornography case but if the question thrown is whether we have the tools to control it, I return the question, is it then better to ignor protection because we don\'t have a tool? The question is \'Do we have the GUTS to do it\'. I\'ve seen enough slave mentality not to fight because the aggressor is stronger and we are surrounded by loosers (like those software designers). I fail to see any input on the discussion on how to better control twitter contents to protect our values when there\'s no one trying to elaborate/define/list freedom of speech that is relevant/against our constitutional values.

    A saudis is now facing death sentence because of freedom of speech, he knew his constitutional values but he uses the freedom to hurt it..? He is punished for what he is aware of and I think that\'s fair for mathematic Bravery = Sacrifice or Action = Consequences

    I think we have to shift our view from observing values after values, what\'s fit and what\'s not ideal. It is time to focus on practicality, whatever it means for our unity.

    Pancasila bourne from practicality, the shield created which we need to learn from.

    By the way I am not twitter/facebook followers/user nor that I am PKS supporter. Yes I am a muslim, proud of it and I subscribe to practicality whenever wherever. Love JK hate Golkar, admire Gus Dur hate his blindness, care for SBY disgust his style, love Wimar\'s gut but hate his ineffective fighting format. One day I\'d like to meet Wimar personally, but perhaps that\'s only a dream..
  2. From Juan on 13 July 2012 02:19:07 WIB
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