Jakarta – Indonesia needs to improve artistic freedom through better policies. There is currently no systematic effort to protect artistic freedom even though it is one of the vital human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which have been ratified by the government.
“Indonesia has a legal basis in protecting human rights (HAM). Yet, the other regulations allow arbitrary restrictions on human rights. Ratification process needs to be complemented with review of the influence of authoritarianism and oligarchy in state policies and leadership,” said Ratri Ninditya, Research Coordinator on Art and Culture Policy of the Indonesian art coalition, Koalisi Seni, in a webinar on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.
On the same occasion, Koalisi Seni also launched a literature review on violations of artistic freedom throughout 2010 -2020. The study was supported by UNESCO through the funding scheme of Funds-In-Trust Korea.
According to Ratri, to ensure protection of artistic freedom, the government should be just and comprehensive in resolving artistic freedom violations as well as providing adequate protection and rehabilitation for victims.
Indonesia also lacks studies on artistic freedom, even though there are dozens of documented cases of violations. The violation is neither consistently reported because of society’s lack of concern for artistic freedom.
Based on media reports and data from human rights institutions, Koalisi Seni has recorded 45 cases of violations during 2010-2020. Each case violates multiple rights of artistic freedom and occurs in several art sectors. Based on the rights of artistic freedom categories, the rights to create without censorship or intimidation was the most frequently violated (29 cases), followed by the rights to have artistic work supported, distributed and remunerated (28), the right to participate in cultural life (20), the right to freedom of association (6), and the right to freedom of movement (1). No violations were recorded for the protection of social and economic rights.
Meanwhile, based on art categories, the film sector has the most violations (24 cases), followed by fine arts (11), music (6), literature (6), dance (4), theatre (3), and fashion (1).
The study finds that the reformation era has sharpened identity politics, which is often used by the state to control its citizens. The spirit of freedom of expression that emerged in the reformation era actually gave birth to a new authoritarianism through a legitimate process.
Furthermore, instead of protecting minorities, the law is used by the state to restrict ideas which contradict the opinion of the majority. Various artistic activities were also banned under the pretext of communism, religion, and LGBT sentiments. The restriction shows the socio-political dynamics of Indonesia, which put art as part of the political expression of individuals and groups.
To improve policies, Koalisi Seni has made some recommendations. First, violence should be an indicator for law enforcement agencies in determining who needs to be prosecuted and protected. The perpetrators of violence must be punished, while the victims must be protected. Second, Indonesia needs both an offline and online monitoring system for violations of artistic freedom. Third, art activists need to make alliances with human rights activists to defend artistic freedom.
Sandra Yati Moniaga, Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), finds Koalisi Seni’s study interesting and also important. She confirmed that Indonesia hasn’t set systemic efforts to enforce and promote artistic freedom.
“The efforts are still sporadic in some cases and policies. A systemic enforcement will enable comprehensive handling of the case. However, in promoting the rights, we already have quite a number of laws and regulations which guarantee artistic freedom, but harmonisation of law is still needed. From the institutional side, there are officers who have to fulfil their duties, whilst from a public perspective we need to ensure that all law enforcement officers understand and implement the regulations,” he said.
Sandra suggested Koalisi Seni collaborate with various ministries, state institutions, local governments, and civil society to create a road map for the enforcement and promotion of the rights of artistic freedom. It is also necessary to look for the state programs to go hand in hand in the future.
In the webinar, artist Agus Suwage shared his experience in the violation of artistic freedom in 2005 CP Biennale. His collaborative artwork with Davy Linggar: Pink Swing Park – which was created as a commentary for fakeness of urbanites – raised controversy because it included naked photos of Anjasmara and Izabel Jahja, even though their breasts and genitals had been censored with circles.
When his work appeared on an infotainment, it was titled “Anjasmara naked”. As a result, based on protest by some communities, the Pink Swing Park exhibition was closed.
In the webinar, the Director General of Culture of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Hilmar Farid, also gave his response. Parallel with advocating for better policies for artistic freedom, said Hilmar, it was also important to strengthen public institutions such as the central government, regional governments, the police, and other law enforcement agencies.
“The apparatus must fully understand the rights of artistic freedom. Many people mix their personal views with the law, since it is not easy to separate them. For that, we need to invite the police and other law enforcement agencies to attend the event about artistic freedom,” he explained.
Hilmar added that there is an art school which restricts freedom by preventing its students from using models in studying anatomy. This means that the threat not only came from the state apparatus, but also non-state actors. “This challenge cannot be solved with regulations, but with action. The struggle for a healthy, intelligent, tolerant, and democratic society is our duty, even if it has ups and downs,” he said.
Read more about Koalisi Seni advocacy for artistic freedom.