Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Indonesia has made impressive democratic gains since the fall of an authoritarian regime led by President Suharto 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 some minority groups, separatist tensions in the Papua region, and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • In January, after local residents in Kalimantan attacked settlements established by the banned religious group Gafatar, hundreds of members were forcibly transferred to their home districts and subjected to “reeducation” sessions. 
  • More than 2,000 people were reportedly arrested during the year for participating in nonviolent rallies supporting independence for the provinces of Papua and West Papua.
  • Setya Novanto—who had stepped down as parliament speaker in 2015 after being accused of attempted extortion—won the chairmanship of the second-largest political party, Golkar, in May and resumed his position as speaker in December following a favorable court ruling.
  • In September, Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”), an ethnic Chinese Christian who was preparing to run in the February 2017 gubernatorial election, made remarks that critics claimed were blasphemous toward Islam, leading to criminal charges and a series of protests in the city.
Executive Summary: 

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) continued to work with entrenched elites to advance his economic development agenda in 2016, at times at the expense of democratic reforms. He made multiple appointments during the year that appeared to clash with his stated goals of advancing anticorruption efforts and addressing past human rights abuses. While he took office in 2014 with only a minority ruling coalition in the parliament, other parties have gradually joined the bloc, including Golkar and the United Development Party (PPP), which both underwent progovernment leadership changes in 2016.

Religious and other minorities faced ongoing harassment and intimidation, often with the tacit approval of local governments and security forces. Suspected members of the banned religious organization Gafatar were increasingly targeted in 2016 as part of a growing trend of using defamation and blasphemy laws to limit the public expression of minority faiths and political opinions. Followers of Ahmadiyya and Shia Islam also suffered discrimination and violent attacks. In addition, women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people remained subject to discriminatory local bylaws regulating dress and behavior.

While Jokowi has claimed that easing separatist tensions in the provinces of Papua and West Papua is a priority, various government agencies and security forces have often openly or subtly contradicted his stated intentions. The presence of international media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the region remained restricted in 2016, despite government assurances to the contrary.

Aggregate Score: 
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