A coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on Sunday dismissed speculations that the freedom of information bill would endanger state secrecy, saying that the bill would also protect national defense and security. The coalition did not only recognize information for the public but also appreciated the protection of state secrets and the work of intelligence officials, coalition members said.
“By saying that the freedom of information bill would cause state secrecy leakage is misleading,” coalition member Agus Sudibyo said in a statement.
Fellow activist Ignatius Haryanto of the Institute for Press and Development Studies (LSPP) emphasized that the freedom of information bill would also regulate state secrecy matters.
LSPP is among 40 NGOs grouped in the Coalition for Freedom of Information. While the coalition hoped to insert articles on state secrecy into the freedom of information bill, State Intelligence Agency (BIN) head A.M. Hendropriyono wanted to enact a separate law on state secrecy.
The government had been unwilling to support the campaign by the NGOs for the freedom of information bill, stating that state secrets must be protected at all costs.
President Megawati Soekarnoputri also expressed her willingness to maintain state secrets. The President recently urged State Cryptology Agency (LSN) head Nachrowi Ramli to fire any officials who disclosed state secrets. Hendropriyono quickly added that a strong law on state secrecy was needed to prevent disclosure of certain events.
“The statements by the President and the head of BIN are a real threat to our struggle to get freedom of information,” Ignatius said.
The freedom of information bill is currently being debated at the House of Representatives (DPR).
A member of a House special committee deliberating the bill, Djoko Susilo, also expressed similar concerns on Sunday, saying he was pessimistic about better freedom of information.
“I think the position of the government is stronger. This is not good news for the coalition,” Djoko said.
According to him, the House special committee would listen to input from Hendropriyono, Nachrowi and academicians next month.
Djoko said state officials would likely not accept the idea of providing the public with access to information.
However, Agus Sudibyo denied speculation that an increase in freedom of information would automatically reveal state secrets.
Ignatius added that articles on state secrecy would be inserted as part of the freedom of information bill. Therefore, speculations that the freedom of information bill would affect state secrecy was untrue, he added.
Coalition of NGOs, Ignatius said, demanded that the government did not make classification of information, namely which information could be accessed and which ones could not. He suggested that all state officials must provide reasons before declaring certain information were parts of state secrets, therefore state officials could not easily close public access to information. (By Kurniawan Hari)