Rights Abuses and Rise of Intolerance ‘A Risk to Freedom’

Rights Abuses and Rise of Intolerance ‘A Risk to Freedom’

Jakarta Globe, 17 January 2011

By: Ismira Lutfia


Jakarta. Despite a recent report identifying Indonesia as the only truly free country in Southeast Asia, the country’s Asean human rights commissioner said weak law enforcement and rising intolerance could threaten this freedom.

According to the latest Freedom in the World findings released on Thursday by civil rights watchdog Freedom House, Indonesia was listed as a “free” country in terms of political rights and civil liberties — the only country to receive this rating in the region. The full report will be available by April 2011.

Indonesian commissioner to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Rafendi Djamin agreed with the assessment, saying, “Indonesia’s general condition is obviously free compared to other Asean countries.”

However, he warned that restrictive laws and regulations such as the 2008 Anti-Pornography Law could set Indonesia back from its current condition.

“Although we have been listed as a ‘free’ nation since 2006, we have not yet developed a mature democratic system,” Rafendi said. “Our position can only be considered stable when it has remained consistent for at least a decade.”

He added that weak law enforcement against human rights violations and declining respect for diversity presented serious threats to democracy.

The annual Freedom in the World report defines a country as “free” when there is open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, independent civic life and independent media.

Indonesia has received a rating of “free” every year since 2006, before which it was listed as “partly free” between 1998 and 2005.

On a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the ideal condition of freedom for a country, Indonesia scored 2 for political rights and 3 for civil liberties. The combined average of these scores should give Indonesia a rating of 2.5 in the final report, classifying it as a “free” country.

Fellow Asean members Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines are listed as “partly free,” while Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam and Laos are listed as “not free.” Two other neighboring countries that are not Asean members, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea, are listed as “partly free.”

The 2011 Freedom in the World survey assessed conditions of freedom in 194 countries and 14 related and disputed territories. Out of the 194 countries, 87 were classified as “free,” 60 as “partly free” and 47 as “not free.” Major nations in the Asia-Pacific region listed as “free” include India, Mongolia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the survey’s results, 11 countries exhibited noteworthy gains toward freedom in the past year, but 25 others showed significant declines, with the number of “free” countries dropping from 89 to 87, and the number of electoral democracies dropping to 115, far below the 2005 figure of 123.

“This should be a wake-up call for all of the world’s democracies,” said David J. Kramer, the executive director of Freedom House.

“Our adversaries are not just engaging in widespread repression, they are doing so with unprecedented aggressiveness and self-confidence, and the democratic community is not rising to the challenge.”