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Indonesia’s govt drops appeal against ruling on internet shutdown in Papua

A Papuan student with her face painted with the colours of the separatist 'Morning Star' flag shouts slogans during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 29. CREDIT: AP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

JAKARTA, Jun 22, 2020, The Jakarta Post. The government has decided to drop its appeal against a court ruling that found it had violated the law for blocking internet access in Papua and West Papua amid tensions caused by a string of antiracism protests in the two provinces last year, The Jakarta Post reported.

Presidential expert staff member Dini Shanti Purwono confirmed the government had decided to retract its appeal.

“From what I have gathered, the Communications and Information Ministry issued a retraction letter on Thursday. The President is set to issue [a retraction letter] on Monday,” Dini told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) had previously sent letters notifying civil society groups that the two defendants in the case, Jokowi and Communications and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate, had filed appeals against the court ruling.

“The first defendant [Jokowi] filed an appeal against the court ruling on June 12, 2020,” states the notification letter from the PTUN to the plaintiffs, a copy of which was obtained by the Post on Saturday.

Another letter informed the plaintiffs that the second defendant, the communications and information minister, had filed an appeal as well.

The PTUN previously ruled on June 2 in favor of civil society organizations that filed a lawsuit against the government on the matter, accusing it of having violated the 1959 State Emergency Law when it imposed an internet blackout in the provinces.

The judges argued the government failed to prove during the court hearing that the country was in a state of emergency that required authorities to shut down the internet. The bench also argued that any policy that limited people’s right to information should be made in accordance with the law and not merely based on the government’s discretion.

The plaintiff was a coalition of civil groups including the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM).

While expressing their disappointment at the news of the government’s appeal, the plaintiffs said they were ready to face the government in the courtroom once again, believing the higher courts would not change the initial ruling.

Antiracism protests occurred in the country’s easternmost provinces from August to September last year, prompted by racial abuse toward a Papuan student in Surabaya. The government started imposing internet restrictions in Papua and West Papua on Aug. 21, 2019, on the pretext of maintaining security, with a partial ban in several regions that lasted until early September.

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