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, conflict in the Papua region, and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws.
- In March and April, employees of the Corruption Eradication Commission were required to take a civics test to be inducted into the civil service; the test included religious, personal, and political questions. In May, it was announced that 75 employees had failed the test, with 51 dismissed and 24 allowed to be reinstated after an additional training program.
- An October presidential regulation declared that Indonesia’s national, philosophical ideology, Pancasila, should be the guiding principle in research and innovation policy. Academics fear that authorities will use this decree to prohibit some types of research on grounds that they are incompatible with the ideological principles.
- Amnesty International Indonesia reported an increase in attacks against human rights defenders throughout the year. In November, explosives were thrown at the home of the parents of human rights lawyer Veronica Koman. Koman lives in self-imposed exile in Australia due to criminal charges against her in Indonesia for circulating fake news and incitement—charges believed to be in retaliation for her human rights work in West Papua.
|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 (known as “Jokowi”), the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), won a second term as president 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. President Widodo has increasingly appointed prominent military figures to positions within his cabinet, enabling people with a military background to further shape public discourse and policy. Intimidation by nonstate actors—including Islamist groups—remains a problem, as is the growing use of online propaganda in political campaigns.
|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 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 following the beginning of 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. The most common offenses are embezzlement, 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 2019, the parliament passed legislation weakening the KPK; requiring all employees to join the civil service and investigators to be from the National Police. As part of their induction into the civil service, in March and April 2021 KPK employees were required to take a civics test that also included religious, personal, and political questions. In May, it was announced that 75 KPK employees had failed the test, with 51 dismissed and 24 allowed to be reinstated after an additional training program.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||2.002 4.004|
Although civil society groups can 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 bill included both new legislation and revisions to 79 existing laws. Critics argued that the government did not adequately consult the public on the content of the law; they claim consultations were deliberately avoided to sow confusion over the law’s provisions. Its passage was also rushed through the parliament. The Constitutional Court largely agreed, ruling the law conditionally unconstitutional in November 2021 due to flaws in the drafting process. The ruling did not revoke the laws passed as a part of the bill but required the government to redraft the legislation with greater adherence to legislative processes, including public consultations.
|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 (known as UU ITE) 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. This legislation has been used to arrest journalists carrying out legitimate reporting.
Foreign journalists visiting Papua and West Papua continue to report bureaucratic obstacles and deportations. Internet blackouts during protests as well as self-censorship have inhibited press activity. Journalists covering sensitive subjects—including LGBT+ issues, organized crime, and corruption—face harassment, violence, and threats. In June 2021, the chief editor of an online news site in Sumatra was shot and killed while investigating a local night club’s links to organized crime. In March, a journalist from the news outlet Tempo was attacked and detained while investigating a story on corruption in Surabaya. Other journalists have reported attacks such as arson on their cars and homes.
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 2020 directive issued by the Criminal Investigation Agency allows for up to 18 months of imprisonment for “hostile information about the president and government” or disinformation about the coronavirus.
|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 legally, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who “distort” or “misrepresent” recognized faiths.
National and local governments often 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. The government is redrafting the 2006 Joint Ministerial Decision on the creation and administration of houses of worship, which has been cited as a driver religious conflict. Researchers at the University of Melbourne reported that between 2015 and 2020, there were at least 122 recorded cases of communities across the country opposing the establishment of new places of worship.
Violence and intimidation against Ahmadi and Shiite communities persists. However, in December 2020, the newly appointed religious affairs minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas—chair of the Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama’s youth wing, Ansor—pledged to protect Shia and Ahmadiyya minorities and, promote dialogue among different religious groups. In September 2021, an Ahmadiyya mosque in West Kalimantan was destroyed by a mob of local residents; Qoumas strongly condemned the attack.
|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. In October 2021, President Jokowi pardoned an academic who had been jailed for defamation. The academic had been arrested after commenting on university hiring processes, without naming any particular hires, in a private WhatsApp group chat with other academics.
Public academic discussions on Papua and West Papua have been canceled and organizers surveilled and threatened. 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.
The government conducts significant oversight of the university and research sector. University rectors have reported pressure from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology to curb student protests. The minister of education’s vote accounts for 35 percent of the total vote share in the election of university rectors; candidates seek to maintain a positive relationship with the ministry and the minister in order to be selected.
An October 2021 presidential regulation declared that Indonesia’s national, philosophical ideology, Pancasila, should be the guiding principle in research and innovation policy. Academics fear that authorities will use this decree to prohibit some types of research on grounds that they are incompatible with the ideological principles. That same month, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri was appointed head of the Board of Directors of the Agency for Research and Innovation. Critics have questioned the legitimacy and motives of the appointment of a politician without an academic background to the leadership of the agency.
|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, especially online. In 2020, the National Police issued instructions to surveil activists online and engage in creating progovernment counternarratives. Research from the Indonesia Survey Institute and the survey firm Indikator Politik Indonesia have both found that these laws and state practices have had a chilling effect with Indonesians, who reported increasing fears over expressing their opinions online.
Ministerial Regulation 5 (MR5), which came into force in November 2020, requires private digital services and platforms to register with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MICT), or else risk being blocked. Critics allege that the regulation poses significant privacy and freedom of speech risks and provides a tool for the government to censor legitimate speech by placing undue burdens on platforms and services used in Indonesia.
In September, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan filed defamation complaints against the former and current coordinators of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), one of Indonesia’s oldest and most well-respected human rights organizations. Panjaitan complained that a video published on YouTube made by KontraS, which claims that military operations in Papua are intended to protect mining operations, connects Panjaitan and mining companies in the region, suggesting his involvement in corrupt activities. The President’s chief of staff, named Moeldoko, also made a defamation complaint in September against Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) because of an ICW study that examined potential corruption in the manufacture and distribution of Ivermectin, a drug to combat the COVID-19 illness. The ICW alleged that Moeldoko and other party members and public officials improperly promoted and distributed Ivermectin as a COVID-19 drug to the economic benefit of their associates and families.
Civil servants are 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.
The government is known to surveil and detain individuals who discuss separatism in Maluku or Papua or fly the Papuan Morning Star or the Republic of South Maluku (RMS) flag. In May 2021, Victor Yeimo, a spokesman for the West Papua National Committee, was arrested and charged with treason for a 2019 statement made at a protest where he called for a referendum on independence.
|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. Eight students in Jayapura were charged with treason in December 2021 after a peaceful protest during which the Morning Star flag was raised. COVID-19 restrictions have also severely limited the space for protests.
During nationwide protests in 2019, security forces’ actions injured 700 people and killed 8 people.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||2.002 4.004|
A 2013 law requires nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to register with the government and submit to regular reviews of their activities. The law also targets NGOs that commit blasphemy or espouse ideas that conflict with the official Pancasila ideology, such as atheism and communism. The government can dissolve noncompliant organizations without judicial oversight.
Authorities and influential Muslim organizations continue to intimidate and harass LGBT+ people and activists. 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 human rights violations in Papua and to expose endemic corruption in the country are often targeted by authorities or progovernment supporters. Amnesty International Indonesia reported an increase in attacks against human rights defenders in 2021. In November, explosives were thrown at the home of the parents of human rights lawyer Veronica Koman. Koman lives in self-imposed exile in Australia due to criminal charges against her in Indonesia for circulating fake news and incitement—charges believed to be in retaliation for her human rights work in West Papua.
|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. 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 bill came into effect in 2021, challenging workers’ rights by abolishing sectoral minimum wages and limiting labor unions’ negotiating power, as wages are now set by geography rather than by sector. The bill considerably extended outsourcing permissions for companies. It also reversed hard-won labor protections and reduced job security, by decreasing the number of statutory days off from two to one per week. The government’s lack of consultation with existing unions over the law and its opacity about its contents demonstrated the narrowing of space for trade unions and labor organizations.
|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|
Deadly confrontations between security forces remain common in Papua and West Papua, with security forces responsible for at least 84 unlawful killings of civilians between 2018 and March 2021. In April 2021, the government designated Papuan “armed criminal groups” as terrorist organizations, intensifying military operations in the region following the death of a brigadier general in Papua’s Central Highlands that month—the first general killed in over 50 years of conflict.
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. Torture by law enforcement agencies is not explicitly criminalized.
Prisons are overcrowded and corrupt, leading to riots, protests, fires, 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 and political parties. In January 2021, Ambronicus Nababan, a former party official and active supporter of President Jokowi, was detained in police custody following a social media post depicting Papuan activist Natalius Pigai, a former commissioner of Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), alongside a photo of a gorilla.
Some national laws and numerous local ordinances discriminate against women either explicitly or in effect. LGBT+ people suffer from widespread discrimination, legal discrimination in some regions, inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric from authorities, and attacks by hardline Islamist groups, sometimes with support from local authorities. In January 2021, two gay men were publicly flogged in Aceh, receiving 77 lashes each after vigilantes broke into their room and allegedly caught them engaged in sexual activity. 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 impacting indigenous communities and others 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. The minimum age for marriage is set at 19. Marriages must be conducted under the supervision of a recognized religion, which obstructs interfaith marriages.
Local Sharia-based ordinances in many districts impose restrictions on dress, gambling, alcohol use, and sexual activity; these ordinances are disproportionately enforced against women and LGBT+ people. Public displays of affection are banned in Aceh Province under Sharia-based regulations.
In February 2021, the government issued a new regulation banning state schools from making religious attire part of the school dress code, effectively allowing students and teachers to decide whether to wear the hijab as part of their school uniform. However, the Supreme Court struck down the joint ministerial decree in May, claiming the government had failed to follow proper procedures and citing contradictions in existing law.
|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 Score49 100 partly free