In Indonesia in 2021, human rights defenders were subjected to 95 attacks. These human rights activists were becoming more and more vocal in response to increasing numbers of human rights violations. These included a shrinking civic space, criminalisation of free speech, cyber attacks on civil society, violations of freedom of religion and other fundamental rights, extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, and violence against women.
Sadly, the state has not been on their side as the criminalisation of human rights defenders has continued, reaching a new low with the issuing of a subpoena to Fatia Maulidiyanti, the Coordinator of KontraS, and Haris Azhar, the founder of Lokataru. These two had voiced out – through Azha’s YouTube channel – that Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment was involved in exploiting the gold mining sector in Papua. In a short time, Azha and Maulidiyanti were sent two subpoenas by the ministry in question, and were told that their speech was considered defamation. Since both human rights defenders stood firm in their position, having spoken the facts of the minister’s involvement in a company operating in a hot spot in Papua, the minister filed a report against them with the national police under the pretext of defamation, slander, and fake news. Consequently, our fellow human rights defenders and International Network of Civil Liberties Organisation (INCLO) colleagues are currently being unjustly interrogated in a police station in Indonesia.
The restriction of civil society voices means the limitation of democracy in Indonesia. The fear of criticism displayed by the ministry in labelling Azha and Maulidiyanti’s statements “defamation” and the threat against human rights defenders are two ways in which their freedom of expression is being criminalised. Several entities have also witnessed this decline of Indonesia’s public sphere and have sent multiple warnings to Indonesia’s government in an attempt to avert these threats to the right to freedom of expression. We, as the LRC and a fellow human rights defender, would like to express our condemnation of the dehumanising acts perpetrated by the Indonesian state towards Azha, Maulidiyanti and Indonesian civil society. We therefore urge the government and the ministry involved in this matter to release both human rights defenders currently facing judicial harassment.