Bagir Manan: Press Council Makes Rules Based on Convention

Chief Justice Anwar Usman opening the material judicial review of Law No. 40 of 1999 on the Press, Thursday (3/24/2022). Photo by Humas MK/Ifa.

Thursday, March 24, 2022 | 14:57 WIB

JAKARTA, Public Relations—All guidelines made by the Press Council was based on convention and the enforcement and decision-making are left to the communities, meaning that it does not enforce its rules on its own, said Bagir Manan as an expert presented by the Press Council (Relevant Party) at the material judicial review hearing of Law No. 40 of 1999 on the Press on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

The eight hearing for case No. 38/PUU-XIX/2021 took place in the panel courtroom and was presided over by Chief Justice Anwar Usman and five other constitutional justices. Two other experts, Effendi Gazali and Rajab Ritonga, also testified at the hearing.

Manan explained that the press is a community with various forms of independence in one professional, disciplined, and ethical organization. If each member has its own rules, in this case the press community, there will be disharmony. Thus, community rules must be made jointly for the benefit of both the community and its members.

Also read: Press Council’s Function in Drafting Regulations Called into Question

Manan also explained that the Press Law serves to guarantee and protect freedom of the press. One of its manifestations is that the government does not interfere in regulating the press, thus, all matters are taken care of by the press itself, including rules regarding violations, code of ethics, and disciplinary regulations. Press companies must rely on ethics as guardians of the press, so that the press is maintained and remains independent and transparent.

“In law, ethics is guidelines that [dictates] obligations for oneself and the press environment in their environment. Therefore, the Press Council acts as a guardian and protector of the code of ethics of the press that applies to relations within the press community itself,” Manan said.

Also read: Govt: Press Council Facilitates Lawmaking in Press

Maintaining Harmony in Press

Next, Manan explained that the Press Council’s rules facilitate the implementation of the law. Similarly, the existing legal provisions in the Press Council serves to maintain the harmonization of the press. Those provisions were made to ensure the interest of the press within and outside of the organization.

Manan asserted that the functions of the Press Council within itself include maintaining adherence to the code of ethics, discipline, and law for the sake of the press’s authority; conducting professional press training in order to realize the character and intellectualism of the press. Meanwhile, outside, the Press Council acts as a guardian that defends freedom of the press against efforts that eliminate it; establishes cooperation with parties outside of the press, both the government and other agencies; and defends members of the press that are subject to legal prosecution. In conclusion, he said, the election of the Press Council is in the hand of the press community itself, where the Press Council acts the way the KPU (General Elections Commission) functions.

Also read: Press Freedom Chaos Will Ensue If All Organizations Make Regulations 

Single Council

Communication expert of the University of Indonesia (UI) Effendi Gazali said that the Petitioners basically wish to join the Press Council to enforce a code of ethics that is in line with the press law. By becoming a member of the council, all stakeholders will be protected while the quality of the press improve. The existence of a single Press Council, he explained, comes down to the history of the country.

Gazali found that in Indonesia the single Press Council exists for several reasons: to enforce code of ethics; to guarantee public interest; to protect the journalist profession; and to offer guidelines in the case of violence against journalists. Therefore, he rejected the Petitioners’ argument that the a quo law is unconstitutional. He argued that if all members of the press become members of the Press Council as stipulated by the presidential decree, then they must carry out the norms contained in the article.

“[Amid] the contradictory legitimacy that was ratified by the president, what is really needed is social legitimacy so all press groups must implement a code of ethics that binds members of the press. In fact, at the moment, what will increase internationally is not the number of members of the Press Council from press organizations, but the number of the accompanying public. Therefore, methodologically, the Petitioners’ petition cannot be granted because it contradicts the methodological aspects of communication science and its implications,” Gazali said.

Also read: Press Council’s Regulations Impair Journalists’ Rights

Facilitator of the Press

Meanwhile, Gunadarma University communication expert Rajab Ritonga asserted that the Press Law is a gift for the national press because it marks the independence of the national press after 32 years under government control. With the a quo law, the press can freely carry out their duties without worrying about being banned. He also believes that the Press Law is very special because the implementing regulations are made only by the Press Council and its constituents. Thus, these regulations, he added, can be a form of press independence that is free from interference by various elements of power.

“Therefore, for the press community, this council is a facilitator that facilitates various rules that are discussed and implemented together. Thus, the Press Council has never monopolized regulations, let alone took over the role of the Press Council,” Ritonga said.

Also read: House: Press Council Maintains Quality of the Press

The Petitioners—three journalists and chairpersons of press companies and legal entity press organizations, Heintje Grontson Mandagie, Hans M. Kawengian, and Soegiharto Santoso—feel that 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 has prevented them from appointing and inaugurating Press Council members. The Petitioners 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.

They also believe 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 interprets the a quo article that they have 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 the 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.

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

Translation uploaded on 3/25/2022 09:49 WIB

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

Thursday, March 24, 2022 | 14:57 WIB 73