Indonesia underwent a very important process of mass media democratisation since the end of New Order era. A series of laws have been introduced to reveal the strengthening of civil society and people’s right on information such as Law Number 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights, Law Number 40 of 1999 concerning the Press, Law Number 32 of 2002 concerning Broadcasting and Law Number 14 of 2008 concerning Public Information Transparency. In addition, there were also Law Number 44 of 2008 concerning Pornography (that although it limits the dissemination of pornography, it still gives the opportunity for people to consume certain kinds of pornography) and Law Number 33 of 2009 concerning the film industry (which sets the rules for the government’s intervention in limiting the public rights).
The Law on Human Rights also states the right to information. The law, among other principles, states that “everyone has a right to search, obtain, own, retain, process, and convey information by using all kinds of available media” (Article 14 Clause 2); and also that “everyone is free to have, to convey, and to share opinion according to their consciences, either orally or written, either through the printed media or electronic media by considering the religious values, moral values, harmony, public interest, and national integrity” (Article 23 Clause 2).
In terms of press freedom, Indonesia has a democratic Press Law, passed in 1982 and amended in 1999. It abolishes the provisions that blocked press freedom and firmly conveys that “the press independence is guaranteed as the citizen right.”; With the 1999 amendment it also abolished the government’s role in ruling the press arena, the provision of each press institution to own Press Publication Business Licenses, and the articles that facilitate censorship, banning or broadcasting ban against the national press. The law also establishes that journalists must follow the Journalism Code of Ethic.
The Press Law also contained a provision concerning the existence of the Press Council, an independent institution to develop press independence and to improve the life of the national press. The Press Council implements the functions of: (a) conducting a study for the improvement of press life; (b) determining and supervising the implementation of the Journalism Code of Ethic; (c) providing consideration and making an effort of settlement on complaints on cases relating to press reporting; (d) developing the communication among the press, society, and government; (e) facilitating the press organisations in drafting the regulations concerning the press and improving the quality of journalism profession, and (f) collecting data on press companies.
The Broadcasting Law of 2002 was instead the result of civil society’s struggle in building a democratic system of broadcasting, an embodiment of the transitional effort from a governmental power toward a public power. Nevertheless, unlike the Press Law that entirely abolished the government’s authority, in the Broadcasting Law, the government’s role is still recognised as partner of new regulator institution formed by the House of Representatives (DPR), namely Komisi Penyiaran Indonesia (Indonesian Broadcasting Commission - KPI). Similarly, there also many provisions in the Broadcasting Law that are still general and need more operational implementing regulations. During the course of 15 years (2002–2017), various of the law’s provisions that placed the management of frequencies under public sovereignty failed to deliver. The government still holds control over the broadcasting domain, and the role of KPI as an independent regulator weakened. Many problems showed a dark scenario in the broadcasting field, such as the failure to implement the System of Networking Stations, the concentration of ownership in the hands of a small number of large media business owners, the contents of TV broadcasting that violate the rules of broadcasting. Within these many problems, the role of the media industry is getting strong, meanwhile, the public’s role (civil society’ role) is being ignored. The law is under amendment since 2011, but the revision process is not complete yet. Debate arose during the process, especially concerning the digitalisation and cigarette advertisement.
To regulate the information technology media, the Law of Electronic Information and Transaction (known as UU ITE) was introduced in 2008, namely Law Number 11 of 2008 which was amended into Law Number 19 of 2016. UU ITE and then the Amendment of UU ITE generated sharp criticism from civil activists and pro-democratisation groups. UU ITE had played victims of hundreds of people who were reported due to their activities conducted in the Internet world. Criminalisation against the Internet users was especially due to the provision of Article 27 clause 3 on UU ITE which was not amended on the Revision of UU ITE. The Amendment of UU ITE also poses a threat to the democratisation process because of the addition of an article concerning the right to be forgotten and the government’s authority to take down any electronic content if it is considered as disseminating information that breaches the Law.
In Indonesia, there is also self-regulation in the advertisement domain, through the Indonesia Advertising Code of Ethics. The code was arranged by Dewan Periklanan Indonesia (Indonesian Advertising Council) and supported by tens of advertising and broadcasting associations. Advertising players agreed to make it the guide to behave internally and behave in the profession and business according to common values. The code was arranged in two main sections, namely the Code of Conducts or Code of Professional Ethics and the ode of Practices.