Demonstrators protesting the “catchall articles” in UU ITE, a law that has seen hundreds of people being sent to jail for various reasons, some questionable. Credit: Alinea/Achmad Al Fiqri.

The Discrepancy between the Public and the Politicians

With the 2024 general election on the horizon, DPR members are getting busy preparing for another run of political campaigns in their respective constituencies. This puts a major stall on the legislative process, as many of the members are absent from the discussion on UU ITE.

Thus far, Commission I has decided to only revise six out of 56 UU ITE articles in total and considered a few more additions, signaling a less enthusiastic approach. There is a possibility that the UU ITE revision would be completed faster than the PDPA process, however. The intention to move hastily also reveals another reason as to why the discussion for the revision has been taking place behind closed doors.

There is a strong force in the DPR opposing the demands of the civil society coalition for a comprehensive change in UU ITE as they believe this is the momentum to rearrange the most vital law to counter cybercrimes in Indonesia. The coalition – which consists of human rights defender groups, journalist associations, digital activists and a few more – push for the DPR to examine the act thoroughly, not only to address the criminal part of the act which is the main discussion point these days.

The public demands for UU ITE to be scrutinized thoroughly is a step in the right direction: the fact is, the draft bill that is currently being amended does not take into account the recently passed Penal Code.

In 2022, the House and the government agreed on revising the Penal Code that has been in place since the early days of independence. Even though there have been uncountable rejections throughout the process of revising the Penal Code, eventually the new Penal Code was promulgated on the second day of 2023.

As the government’s proposal to revise UU ITE was only submitted in 2021, the fact that there is a new Penal Code in 2023 suggests that the government should have redrafted the UU ITE bill so that the discussion in the DPR’s Working Group could be in line with the new Penal Code.

In fact, during the meeting to accept the Surat Keputusan Bersama (Joint Decree Letter – Surpres) to be the bill, Rizki Natakusumah, a Commission I member from Partai Demokrat, raised the issue that the Surpres should have been reconsidered by the government. His idea was also supported by Christina Aryani, who stated that the new Penal Code rendered the Surpres irrelevant.

Nevertheless, the Working Group chairman decided to move on with the current Surpres and any necessary changes to the bill will be taking place during the revision process. Yet, it has not been smooth-sailing ever since.

Complexities in the Legal Aspect

Every single entity in the UU ITE Working Group, including DPR members and some representatives from the government, should bear in their mind that they must not go against legal stipulations in other laws and acts before they attempt to revise UU ITE. This is a tricky business as the Surpres of the UU ITE bill arrived in the DPR before the validation of the Penal Code Act took place in 2023.

In other words, by right they should have redrafted the bill to reflect the parameters of the new Penal Code that explicitly invalidate numerous articles from the existing UU ITE, such as articles 27 (1) & (2), 28 (2), 30, 31 (1) & (2), 36, 45 (1) & (2), 45A (2), 46, 47, and 51 (2).

Even more complicated is the fact the new Penal Code will only come into effect on 2 January 2026. That means the lawmakers should consider the possibility of the absence of law before 2026 if those aforementioned articles are to be accepted to be taken out of the bill.

Commission I members of the Working Group did not participate in the legislation of the new Penal Code last year, which was handled by Commission III. They seemed annoyed when their opinion and authority were not respected by the Commission III members who removed those articles from the existing UU ITE without Commission I’s blessing. Even worse, Commission I members were not consulted by their counterparts in Commission III when the discussion of the Penal Code was addressing criminal acts in the digital space.

In practice, Commission I is of the opinion that several aspects of the Penal Code about cybercrimes are not definitively adequate. For instance, Article 27 (1) UU ITE which regulates the restriction of pornographic content circulation in public was replaced by a similar arrangement in Article 407 Penal Code.

Nevertheless, the latter is considered not sufficient by the Working Group members as it does not explicitly forbid the act to “transmit” such content. Article 407 only mentions “broadcast” which is different from “transmit” from Commission I’s perspective. Meanwhile, the Explanation Part of Article 247 of the Penal Code explains that the act of “broadcast” encompasses “transmit”.

Eventually, the Working Group agreed to redraft Article 27 (1) of UU ITE to accommodate the term “transmit” from which possible excessive punishment could arise in the future as the two regulations – Article 27 (1) UU ITE and Article 407 Penal Code – might be taken as a cumulative charge. 

The same pattern of confusion also takes place in Article 27 (3) regarding defamation and slander. The existing act forbids anyone to abuse someone’s dignity in the public space through unproven accusations in the forms of digital information/documents.

This article has been misused even by those in government. Journalists and concerned citizens alike have been sent to jail for reporting sensitive issues or cases. Apparently, this controversial article has been addressed and regulated in the Penal Code, which renders its inclusion in UU ITE somewhat redundant. However, the Working Group decided to incorporate this element still, citing that the Penal Code does not specifically address defamation in the digital space.

The pattern of repeated articles in the Penal Code and UU ITE creates the problem of redundancy which will only breed more situations of legal uncertainty in the future. The possible emergence of problematic multi-interpretation was one of the reasons why the government wanted to revise UU ITE in the first place, but this entire episode shows that little has changed.

All in all, this concern of redundancy could be alleviated if the closing part of the UU ITE contains transitional provisions. At the closing pages of UU ITE, the lawmakers could provide a particular provision that all of the articles above will not be effective once the Penal Code comes into effect on the second day of the year 2026. If this is the case, one should not be worried about the possibility of law redundancy as UU ITE will be overruled by the Penal Code in the future.

The big question now is this: does the Working Group have the courage to produce a law that will only be relevant for less than three years?


With the amendment process taking place behind closed doors, it has been a challenging task to seek a piece of good news from this entire process. The revision process can be a cause of concern for observers of cyber law in Indonesia as this not only relates to how criminal acts in the digital space are being managed, but also how democracy prevails in the future.

One should not be surprised as to why it remains difficult to guarantee freedom in the digital space in Indonesia. Today’s lawmakers are in favor of a big state approach when it comes to managing activities in the digital space.

One bright side from this whole conundrum is the fact that the lawmakers endeavor to ensure children’s digital protection is through stricter rules on digital platforms.

Aside from that, further debates on how criminal acts in the digital realm are regulated, in their context with the Penal Code, will inevitably occur post-amendment which is likely to be finalized circa August 2023.

The anticipated outcome indicates that the struggle to reform Indonesia’s cybersecurity is a long and winding road. There are disagreements from legal perspectives, especially when it comes to the attempt on striking the balance between freedom and restriction in the digital space. That attempt is hardly attainable as the cyberspace is full with noise and chaotic in nature. If that were to be the baseline, UU ITE should not be considered an omnibus law that was intended to be the government’s silver bullet solution to all problems in the digital space. Other lex spesialis acts on cyberspace should be considered.

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