Freedom of speech and information and freedom of the press and the media are guaranteed by the Constitution, which came into effect in 2002. Section 40 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and information and ensures the right of its exercise without the limit of any kind of censorship. Section 41 ensures the freedom of the press and other mass media. This includes freedom of speech and creativity of journalists, access to information sources, editorial freedom, professional confidentiality and the right to run newspapers and other means of broadcasting. This article also protects the independence of the media from political and economic interference and prohibits monopoly. This provision makes it mandatory for radio and television stations to operate under a license in accordance with law.
However, while the Constitution protects freedom of speech of the media, the regulatory framework required for protection of journalists is not adequate. The legal regulation affecting the media draws from various sources including Indonesia’s Press Law and Penal Code.
Affecting the print and electronic media, the Press Law of Indonesia promises general guarantees of media freedom and prohibition of censorship. Apart from seeking to promote freedom of speech and encourage voluntary compliance with a Code of Ethics through the formation of a press council, it imposes the penalty of imprisonment and fines against the offence of obstructing media freedom. It also enables journalists to protect the confidentiality of the sources of information. However, at the same time this law makes it mandatory for the media to respect religious and moral norms, to attend to the rights of response and correction and presumption of innocence, which tantamount to restrictions on freedom of speech. The media’s obligations of acceding to the others’ right of response and correction imply prior restraint of the media and control of content. Besides, the breach of the provisions of the Press Law is punished with fines that are exorbitant in the context of Timor Leste.
Broadcast law seeks fair allocation and distribution of the limited radio frequency spectrum to regulate the operations of commercial, public and community telecommunication services. At present a 2001 Telecommunications law, which spells out broad provisions for allocation and regulation of telecommunications spectrum, currently prevails as the country’s primary legal regulation for the broadcast media.
The revised Penal Code criminalises defamation; this legal provision allows sanctions ranging from fines to three years of imprisonment.
Recently the government drafted a set of media laws, National Policy of Mass Communication, which was reviewed by a council of ministers in March 2010. This policy seeks to encourage the development of free, independent and pluralist mass media, to protect the right to information, to encourage the professional development of journalists through training and ensure their rights, to resize the existing public service broadcasting (RTTL) and help in the sustainability of community radios. It also creates legal provision for the establishment of an autonomous body, Mass Communication National Council, to ensure the independence and pluralism of the media. While the policy has a number of high points, it also includes legal provision of holding journalists liable, in case of failure of duties, and it retains the right of reply of those offended by the media. The former provision can be exploited by powerful stakeholders to penalise journalists if their interests are affected by news reports.Back to top