Press Council’s Function in Drafting Regulations Called into Question

The Petitioners and their counsel at the material judicial review hearing of Law No. 40 of 1999 on the Press, Wednesday (25/8/2021). Photo by Humas MK/Bayu.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | 19:26 WIB

JAKARTA, Public Relations—The functions of the Press Council in drafting various press regulations as referred to in Article 15 paragraph (2) letter f and Article 15 paragraph (5) of Law No. 40 of 1999 on the Press were materially petitioned to the Constitutional Court (MK). Three journalists and chairs of press companies and organizations—Heintje Grontson Mandagie, Hans M. Kawengian, and Soegiharto Santoso—filed the case No. 38/PUU-XIX/2021.

They challenged Article 15 paragraph (2) letter f of the Press Law, which reads, “The Press Council has the following functions: facilitating press organizations in order to form regulations in press as well as increasing the quality of journalistic professionalism.” They also challenged Article 15 paragraph (5), which reads, “Membership of the Press Council as stated in article (3) is stipulated by a Presidential Decree.”

At a virtual hearing on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, the panel—consisting of Constitutional Justices Arief Hidayat (chair), Manahan M. P. Sitompul, and Daniel Yusmic P. Foekh—heard the points of the petition, which were read out by counsel Vincent Suriadinata. Suriadinata said the ambiguity of Article 15 paragraph (5) of the Press Law had harmed the Petitioners’ constitutional rights. The Petitioners, who own press companies and legal entities, feel their right to form an independent Press Council and to vote for and be elected as Press Council members democratically had been oppressed. In addition, they believe the provision had prevented them from appointing and inaugurating Press Council members.

Suriadinata revealed that the Petitioners had organized a national press congress in 2019, in which its members were appointed. However, due to Article 15 paragraph (5) of the Press Law, the results of the congress were not responded by the president.

“The decision of the plenary chairman of the 2019 press congress of Indonesia did not receive legal certainty and justice as it did not get any response by the president, as the election of the Press Council members was not determined by a presidential decree. Whereas the legitimacy of the membership of an independent Press Council is derived from a joint decision by the leaders of independent press organizations,” he said before the bench.

Suriadinata also said Article 15 paragraph (2) letter f of the Press Law must be reviewed because it had led to press organizations losing their right to formulate regulations in press. The Press Council, he said, interpreted the a quo article that they had the authority to draft and stipulate regulations in press. Therefore, Article 15 paragraph (2) letter f of the Press Law contradicts Article 28, Article 28C paragraph (2), Article 28D paragraph (1), Article 28E paragraph (3), Article 28H paragraph (2), and Article 28I paragraph (2) of the 1945 Constitution insofar as not interpreted as “in forming regulations in press by each press organization” as it limits the press organizations’ right to develop freedom of the press and uphold the basic values of democracy, promote the rule of law and human rights, respect diversity, exercise supervision, critique, provide corrections and recommendations on public matters, as well as fight for truth and justice.

Therefore, in their petitum, the Petitioners requested that the Court declare Article 15 paragraph (2) letter f of the Press Law unconstitutional and not legally binding insofar as not interpreted as “in forming regulations in press by each press organization.” They also requested that the Court declare Article 15 paragraph (5) of the Press Law unconstitutional insofar as not interpreted as “Presidential decrees are administrative in nature according to proposals or requests from press organizations, press companies, and journalists who are elected through a democratic press congress.”

Justices’ Advice

In response to the petition, Constitutional Justice Manahan M. P. Sitompul advised the Petitioners to clarify their identities and include Article 24C paragraph (2) of the Constitutional Court on the Court’s judicial review authority.

Meanwhile, Constitutional Justice Daniel Yusmic P. Foekh advised them to revise their legal standing and include the decision of the congress as evidence.

“Are the Petitioners [petitioning] as individuals, or if [they] are press organization activists or journalists, they can strengthen their legal standing. It is elaborated here that the congress resulted in a decision but there hasn’t been any follow-up from the president, any decree, etc. Include the [organization’s] membership before the 2019 congress,” he said.

Similarly, Constitutional Justice Arief Hidayat advised the Petitioners to strengthen their legal standing. “Because a case can only be examined if the legal standing [requirements] are met. I interpreted this differently. I believe the Petitioners intend [to file the petition] not as organizations but as individuals,” he said.

Before concluding the hearing, the justice panel informed the Petitioners that they had 14 workdays to revise the petition. The revised petition must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office by September 7, 2021.

Writer        : Utami Argawati
Editor        : Lulu Anjarsari P.
PR            : Andhini S. F.
Translator  : Yuniar Widiastuti (NL)

Translation uploaded on 8/30/2021 17:00 WIB

Disclaimer: The original version of the news is in Indonesian. In case of any differences between the English and the Indonesian version, the Indonesian version will prevail.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | 19:26 WIB 293
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