Insulting the President Could Be Illegal Under New Code

A draft Criminal Code revision proposed by the government for debate earlier this month reintroduces criminal punishment for insulting the head of state, a legislator revealed Tuesday.

Under the current law, authorities cannot prosecute citizens for insulting the president or the vice president, as it was decriminalized by the Constitutional Court in 2006.

Martin Hutabarat, a member of the House of Representatives’ Legislative Committee, said on Tuesday that under the draft Criminal Code revision, an insult against the head of state could be punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Therefore people who insult the president … can be legally processed,” said the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) politician.

He added that the criminal code draft also proposed punishment of up to one year in prison for people who insult or defame a dead person.

Meanwhile, regarding the highly controversial article on witchcraft, which is included in the draft revision, retired police officer Sr. Comr. Alfons Lemau expressed doubt about the authorities’ ability to determine whether somebody was practicing witchcraft.

He said the police would have difficulty in trying to find evidence to prove that someone was a shaman.

“In my whole career in the National Police, I have never seen any suspect brought to court for practicing witchcraft,” he said.

Alfons argued that the process to prove the practice of witchcraft would be lengthy if the case was brought to court.

Permadi, a Gerindra politician who claims to have magical powers, said the definition of the practice must be clear and left to experts.

“Legal experts must reach an agreement on whether or not the witchcraft practice exists. Once they believe that witches exist, the team should involve experts on witchcraft to prevent the definition from being misunderstood,” he said.

The head drafter of the Criminal Code revision claimed on Saturday that the controversial witchcraft article was intended to protect people from fraud and deception, but others have argued that it violates the rights of shamans and psychics.

“It’s not the witchcraft, but the deception that is targeted under the Criminal Code revision,” Andi Hamzah, who originally drafted the proposed Criminal Code amendments in 1992, said during a discussion in Jakarta on Saturday.

“The article [about witchcraft] is to protect people [from being deceived] because there are people claiming they can cast a spell but require 50 cows or pigs in return as payment.”

The government has experienced widespread criticism after the proposed article on witchcraft hit the media.

Under Article 293 of the revised code, “everyone who believes that they have magic power, informing hope, offering services that they can cause illness, death, mental or physical suffering to someone, can be sanctioned to spend, at the longest, five years in jail or be fined at the most Category IV [Rp 300 million, or $30,800].”