Indonesia has made impressive democratic gains since the fall of an authoritarian regime in 1998, establishing significant pluralism in politics and the media and undergoing multiple, peaceful transfers of power between parties. However, the country continues to struggle with challenges including systemic corruption, discrimination and violence against minority groups, separatist tensions in the Papua region, and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws.
- In April, the government issued a directive to police to combat alleged disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and criticism of the government and president’s response to it. Police had arrested 51 individuals under this policy by June. Other legislation and policies enacted after the outbreak of the pandemic were used to limit freedoms and silence dissent.
- A controversial omnibus law passed in October severely limited workers’ rights and environmental protections. Passed with minimal public consultation, the law, among other things, stripped worker protections such as the length of severance pay and allowable overtime.
- In October, protests against the new omnibus law erupted countrywide, and were violently suppressed by police. Hundreds of protesters were arrested in 18 different provinces, and police reportedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.
- In June, a group of activists and students known as the Balikpapan Seven were convicted and sentenced to up to 11 months’ imprisonment for treason related to their involvement in 2019 antiracist protests in Jayapura, Papua. Treason charges were brought against other students and activists involved in protests against racism and attacks on Papuans, as well as against those involved in flag raisings of the Papuan Morning Star and the Republic of South Moluccas (RMS) flags.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president is directly elected and serves as both head of state and head of government. Presidents and vice presidents can serve up to two five-year terms. Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”), the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), won a second term in the April 2019 election with 55.5 percent of the vote, defeating former general Prabowo Subianto, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) candidate.
Limited voting irregularities were reported, but the contest was largely considered free and fair by international election monitors. Prabowo’s campaign claimed the election was marred by widespread fraud and vote rigging, but this claim was rejected by the Constitutional Court in June 2019. Jokowi appointed Prabowo as his defense minister.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The House of Representatives (DPR), the main parliamentary chamber, consists of 575 members elected in 34 multimember districts. The 136-member House of Regional Representatives (DPD) is responsible for monitoring laws related to regional autonomy and may also propose bills on the topic. All legislators serve five-year terms with no term limits.
Legislative elections were held concurrently with the presidential race and local contests in April 2019. The PDI-P, led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, won 19.3 percent of the vote and 128 seats. Golkar, the party of former authoritarian president Suharto, won 85 seats with 12.3 percent of the vote, followed by Gerindra with 78 seats and 12.6 percent of the vote. Partai NasDem won 59 seats, while the Democratic Party (PD) of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won 54. Two Islamic parties—the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP)—lost seats from the last parliament, returning with 44 and 19 seats, respectively. Two other Islamic parties, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), increased their representation, winning 58 and 50 seats, respectively.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||3.003 4.004|
The legal framework for elections is largely democratic, and electoral authorities are mostly seen as impartial. However, some legal provisions are problematic. Under a 2012 law, the hereditary sultan of Yogyakarta is that region’s unelected governor.
A 2016 revision to the law governing local elections requires that the Election Oversight Agency (Bawaslu) and the General Elections Commission (KPU) conduct a binding consultation with the parliament and the government before issuing any new regulations or decisions. Activists expressed concerns that the rules would reduce electoral authorities’ independence.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
The right to organize political parties is respected, and the system features competition among several major parties. Four new parties contested the 2019 elections, two of them led by children of former president Suharto.
However, election laws favor large parties by increasing eligibility requirements. The 2017 General Elections Law requires new parties to undergo a “factual verification” process which involves confirming the accuracy of submitted documents on parties’ management, membership, and operations.
Communist parties are banned, and those who disseminate communist symbols or promote communism can face prison sentences of up to 12 years.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Indonesia has established a pattern of democratic power transfers between rival parties since 1999. The most recent handover occurred in 2014, when the PDI-P returned to power after losing the previous two presidential elections. However, the 2017 General Elections Law requires parties or coalitions fielding presidential candidates to hold 20 percent of the seats in the parliament or 25 percent of the national vote in the most recent parliamentary election. The provision effectively bars new or smaller parties from fielding candidates in the presidential race.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||3.003 4.004|
While voters and candidates are generally free from undue interference, the military remains influential, with former commanders playing prominent, and growing roles in politics. Intimidation by nonstate actors—including Islamist radical groups—remains a problem.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||2.002 4.004|
Women enjoy full political rights, and political parties are also subject to 30 percent gender quotas for steering committees and candidates. However, they remain underrepresented in electoral politics, holding 21 percent of the DPR’s seats, though they do sometimes win leadership positions. Puan Maharani, daughter of former president Megawati and granddaughter of former president Sukarno, was elected in 2019 as the first woman to be speaker of the parliament.
Ethnic Chinese are poorly represented in politics, and often abstain from voting. However, two parties with ethnic Chinese leaders, the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) and United Indonesian Party (Perindo), contested the April 2019 elections. Both parties fell below the 4-percent threshold to earn seats.
Some local governments have discriminated against religious minorities by restricting access to identification cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other bureaucratic necessities, limiting their political rights and electoral opportunities.
LGBT+ people are also poorly represented in electoral politics.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||3.003 4.004|
Elected officials generally determine the policies of the government, though national authorities have faced difficulties in implementing their decisions due to resistance at the local level. Separately, observers have warned that the military is regaining its influence over civilian governance and economic affairs. These concerns increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as military generals served as the heads of both the National Task Force for COVID-19 Management and the Ministry of Health.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||1.001 4.004|
Corruption remains endemic in the national and local legislatures, civil service, judiciary, and police. From January to June 2020, according to information released by Indonesia Corruption Watch in October, 1,008 cases with 1,043 defendants were heard at the Corruption Crime Court, High Court, and Supreme Court combined, with average sentences handed down of three years. The most common offenses were embezzlement of state funds, bribery, and extortion. Acrimony between rival agencies—particularly the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the National Police—has hindered anticorruption efforts, and civilian investigators have no jurisdiction over the military. In September 2019, the parliament passed legislation weakening the KPK; under the new act, the KPK can only employ investigators from the National Police, is restricted in its ability to wiretap suspects, and is supervised in its work by an independent panel appointed by the president.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||2.002 4.004|
Although civil society groups are able to comment on and influence pending policies or legislation, government transparency is limited by broad exemptions in the freedom of information law and obstacles such as a 2011 law that criminalizes leaking vaguely defined “state secrets” to the public.
The 2020 omnibus law, which was passed by the DPR in October and signed by Jokowi in November, included many individual pieces of new legislation, the proposals of which had sparked nationwide protests in 2019, as well as revisions to 79 existing laws. Indonesian critics have argued the government did not adequately consult the public on the content of the law, consultations they claim were deliberately avoided to sow confusion over the law’s provisions; its passage was also rushed through the parliament.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
Indonesia hosts a vibrant and diverse media environment, though legal and regulatory restrictions hamper press freedom. The 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions extended libel to online media, and criminalized the distribution or accessibility of information or documents that are “contrary to the moral norms of Indonesia,” or involve gambling, blackmail, or defamation. In January and February 2020, police detained journalist Muhammad Asrul for more than a month for alleged criminal defamation arising from a series of articles published in 2019 about a corruption scandal. At the beginning of his detention, he was held for two days without notice to his family or employer and without access to legal counsel. In this case and others, the police violated the terms set out in the 2018 memorandum of understanding between the Press Council and the police chief.
According to the Indonesian group the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), violence against journalists in Indonesia hit an all-time high in 2020, with 84 reports of violent incidents received by AJI over the course of the year. In October, the AJI reported 28 cases of police action against journalists, including intimidation, physical violence, and detention, targeting those covering the mass demonstrations against the 2020 omnibus law. Many journalists showed their press identification, yet were still targeted. Foreign journalists visiting Papua and West Papua continue to report bureaucratic obstacles and deportations. Internet blackouts during protests in Jakarta and Papua in recent years as well as self-censorship have also inhibited press activity. Journalists covering sensitive subjects, including LGBT+ issues, face harassment and threats.
There are growing concerns that the government has used the COVID-19 pandemic to tighten restrictions on journalists, including criminalizing criticism of the government. A new directive issued by the Criminal Investigation Agency in April 2020 allows for up to 18 months of imprisonment for “hostile information about the president and government” or disinformation about the coronavirus. By June, police had arrested 51 individuals for allegedly spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Several Indonesian media outlets during the year experienced digital attacks including hacking, doxing, and distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks after publishing pieces critical of the government’s COVID-19 response.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||1.001 4.004|
Indonesia officially recognizes Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Individuals may leave the “religion” section on their identity cards blank, but those who do—including adherents of unrecognized faiths—often face discrimination. Atheism is not accepted, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who “distort” or “misrepresent” recognized faiths.
National and local governments fail to protect religious minorities and exhibit bias in investigations and prosecutions. Building a new house of worship requires the signatures of 90 congregation members and 60 local residents of different faiths.
Violence and intimidation against Ahmadi and Shiite communities persists, and the central government continues to tolerate persecution of these groups. However, in December 2020, the newly appointed religious affairs minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas—who is chair of the Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama’s youth wing, Ansor—pledged to protect Shia and Ahmadiyah minorities and promote dialogue among different religious groups.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||2.002 4.004|
Threats to academic freedom have increased in recent years. Hard-line groups and others are known to threaten discussions on LGBT+ matters, interfaith issues, Papua, police violence, and the 1965–66 anticommunist massacres.
Academics have been charged with defamation and removed from their posts for criticism of public officials. Throughout 2020, academics, students, and researchers received threats—including death threats—and experienced hacking of their online accounts, physical intimidation, and violence for organizing discussions on topics apparently perceived as critical of the government.
Academic discussions on Papua and West Papua have been canceled and organizers surveilled and threatened. Four students from Khairun University in North Maluku were expelled in December 2019 for their involvement that month in peaceful protests over human rights abuses in Papua and West Papua; one of the students was charged with treason in July 2020. Students, student union leaders, and others involved in campus protests against anti-Papuan racism continued to face intimidation, arrest, and treason charges, with authorities linking the antiracism protests to secessionist movements.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to an escalating pattern of arrests, prosecutions, physical attacks, and intimidation aimed at students and academics who engage in public discussion of politically sensitive topics.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||3.003 4.004|
Laws against blasphemy, defamation, and certain other forms of speech sometimes inhibit the expression of personal views on sensitive topics, including on social media. The chief of the National Police in October 2020 issued instructions for online surveillance of activists and engagement in progovernment counternarratives. Research from the Indonesia Survey Institute has found that these laws and state practices have had a chilling effect: Indonesians surveyed in 2019 increasingly reported feeling that they cannot freely voice their opinions online.
The government is known to surveil and detain individuals who discuss separatism in Maluku or Papua or fly the Papuan or the RMS flags. An elderly couple were convicted of treason in 2019 and sentenced to five years in prison for displaying the RMS flag inside their home.
Civil servants are also subject to stringent restrictions on online activity; in late 2019, the government formed a task force to review “radical” social media comments from civil servants, including speech believed to insult or criticize the official Pancasila ideology, the state motto, the constitution, or the government. The decree governing this new task force also prohibits civil servants from joining organizations deemed to insult the country’s governing principles.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||2.002 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is usually upheld, and peaceful protests are common. However, assemblies addressing sensitive political topics—such as the 1965–66 massacres or regional separatism—are regularly dispersed, with participants facing intimidation or violence from vigilantes or police.
In April 2020, police arrested 23 activists in Maluku for alleged participation in flag-raising ceremonies. In October, three of them were found guilty of treason for taking part in protests and received prison sentences of two to three years. A group of activists and students known as the Balikpapan Seven were convicted of treason in June 2020 for their involvement in 2019 antiracist protests in Jayapura, Papua, and sentenced to ten to eleven months’ imprisonment each. The Seven included two student union leaders from prominent universities, two other students, two members of the National Committee of West Papua, and well-known Papuan independence activist and former political prisoner Buchtar Tabuni.
Thousands of protesters demonstrated against the passage of the Omnibus Law in 18 provinces in October 2020, led by student activists and workers. Police arrested hundreds of people and used tear gas and water cannons, injuring dozens.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||2.002 4.004|
While nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active in Indonesia, they are subject to government monitoring and interference. A 2013 law requires all NGOs to register with the government and submit to regular reviews of their activities. It limits the types of activities NGOs can undertake and bars them from committing blasphemy or espousing ideas that conflict with the official Pancasila ideology, such as atheism and communism. The government is empowered to dissolve noncompliant organizations without judicial oversight.
Authorities and influential Muslim organizations have continued to intimidate and harass LGBT+ people and activists. Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, has called for LGBT+ activism to be criminalized. The cumulative effect of this campaign has been to drive the LGBT+ activist community underground, and to hamper groups seeking to provide services to LGBT+ people.
Activists working to address Papuan issues are also targeted by the government.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||2.002 4.004|
Workers can join independent unions, bargain collectively, and with the exception of civil servants, stage strikes. Legal strikes can be unduly delayed by obligatory arbitration processes, and laws against antiunion discrimination and retaliation are not well enforced. As a result of a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018, the military can assist police in dealing with strikes and demonstrations.
The 2020 omnibus law challenged workers’ rights by abolishing sectoral minimum wages, opting instead for a provincial minimum wage set by governors. This limits labor unions’ negotiating power as wages are set by geography rather than sector. The law also reversed hard-won labor protections—including the length of severance pay and allowable overtime—reduced labor protections and job security by decreasing the number of statutory days off from two to one per week, and considerably extended outsourcing permissions for companies, which was previously limited to five sectors. The government’s lack of consultation with existing unions over the law and its opacity about the law’s contents demonstrated the narrowing of space for trade unions and labor organizations in Indonesia, and the growing, significant challenges to workers’ rights. At the end of the year, the omnibus law was awaiting review by the Constitutional Court after challenges were filed by a number of unions and NGOs.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to the passage of omnibus legislation that removed key labor protections and weakened the position of trade unions.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||2.002 4.004|
The judiciary has demonstrated its independence in some cases, particularly in the Constitutional Court. However, the court system remains plagued by corruption and other weaknesses. Judicial decisions can also be influenced by religious considerations.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||1.001 4.004|
Police reportedly engage in arbitrary arrests and detentions, particularly of protesters or activists suspected of separatism. Existing safeguards against coerced confessions are ineffective, and defendants are sometimes denied proper access to legal counsel, including in death penalty cases.
A number of districts and provinces have ordinances based on Sharia (Islamic law) that are unconstitutional and contradict Indonesia’s international human rights commitments.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||1.001 4.004|
Military service members accused of crimes against civilians are tried in military courts, which lack impartiality and often impose light punishments, even for serious human rights violations. In September 2020, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) reported that security forces tortured and murdered a pastor in Intan Jaya, Papua, while searching for stolen military weapons. The military had yet to take action against any officer by the end of the year.
Deadly confrontations between security forces remain common in Papua and West Papua. There were at least eight deaths from violence between security forces and communities in September and October 2020 alone, including two members of security forces, church workers, and activists. In November, one teenager was killed and another injured in a shootout with police in Gome District, West Papua.
Torture by law enforcement agencies is not specifically criminalized. Prisons are overcrowded and corrupt, leading to riots, protests, and jailbreaks. Violence related to natural resource extraction remains a problem. In Aceh, regulations under Sharia permit provincial authorities to use caning as punishment for offenses related to gambling, alcohol consumption, and illicit sexual activity.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||1.001 4.004|
Papuans face racial discrimination, including from authorities. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the hashtag #PapuanLivesMatter spread across Indonesia after a Papuan student was shot by security forces while out fishing in April 2020.
Some national laws and numerous local ordinances discriminate against women either explicitly or in effect.
LGBT+ people suffer from widespread discrimination, and authorities continue to target them with inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric. LGBT+ people also risk attacks by hard-line Islamist groups, sometimes with support from local authorities. The military has dismissed 16 soldiers for same-sex relations, including one soldier in 2020, who in addition to being dismissed was sentenced to one year in prison for having relations with another service member. The military has defended its stance against homosexuality, and the police force has also taken action against LGBT+ members of the force.
Ethnic Chinese, who make up approximately one percent of the population but reputedly hold much of the country’s wealth, are also vulnerable to harassment.
Indonesia grants temporary protection to refugees and migrants, but is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not accept refugees for asylum and resettlement.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||3.003 4.004|
The freedoms to travel and change one’s place of residence, employment, or higher education are generally respected. However, Indonesians engaging in these administrative processes are sometimes vulnerable to bribery.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||2.002 4.004|
A robust private sector exists, but business activity is hampered by corruption. Property rights are sometimes threatened by state appropriation and licensing of communally owned land to companies, particularly for those with unregistered or customary land rights. Women have relatively poor rights to marital property, as well. Ethnic Chinese in Yogyakarta face restrictions on private property ownership under a 1975 decree that contravenes national laws.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||2.002 4.004|
Abortion is illegal except to save a woman’s life or in instances of rape. Adults over the age of 15 must have corroboration and witnesses to bring rape charges.
Sharia-based ordinances in a number of districts impose restrictions on dress, gambling, alcohol use, and sexual activity; these ordinances are disproportionately enforced against women and LGBT+ people. In June 2020, the district head of Central Lombok required female Muslim civil servants to wear Islamic face coverings instead of masks to combat COVID-19.
Public displays of affection are banned in Aceh Province under Sharia-based regulations.
Marriages must be conducted under the supervision of a recognized religion, which obstructs interfaith marriages. The minimum age for marriage, defined in the 1974 Marriage Law, was 16 for women and 19 for men; child marriage was historically common for girls. In 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled the minimum age of 16 for women to marry unconstitutional. The parliament complied with the ruling in September 2019, amending the law to make the minimum age for marriage 19 for women.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
National, provincial, and local authorities set standards for working conditions and compensation, but enforcement is inconsistent. Indonesian workers are trafficked abroad, including women in domestic service and men in the fishing industry.
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Global Freedom Score58 100 partly free
Internet Freedom Score47 100 partly free