Indonesian court finds Papua internet blackout illegal

West Papuans protest against racism in Wamena, August 2019. Photo: Supplied. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

JAKARTA, Jun 4, 2020, RNZ. An Indonesian court has ruled the government violated the law by cutting the internet in West Papua last year during widspread protests, Radio New Zealand reported.

Protests were held across Papua region and other parts of Indonesia following racist harassment of West Papuan university students in Java last August.

A panel of judges at the Jakarta State Administrative Court has granted a lawsuit filed by civil society groups against the government’s decision to impose an internet blackout during several weeks of protests in Papua region.

At the time Indonesian officials said the blackout was neccessary in some areas to stem the spread of fake news as unrest grew in Papua.

Dozens of people were killed amid riots and attacks triggered around some of the protests.

The court found the government had imposed the internet blackout without the prior declaration of a state of emergency as required by law.

The legal challenge to the government’s decision to cut the internet was launched by the Alliance of Independent Journalists, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and other groups.

The Jakarta Post reports the lawsuit was filed against Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and the Communications and Information Ministry in January.

Furthermore, the panel said any decision that limited the public’s right to information should be taken in accordance with the law and not simply based on the government’s discretion.

The government initially claimed that its move to restrict internet access across Papua over several weeks was in line with the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

However, the judges said the law could only be enforced to block access to electronic information and documents violating the law, not the entire internet.

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