Oleh: Agus Sudibyo | September 10, 2008

State secrecy bill lacks clarity, experts say

The Jakarta Post ,  Tue, 05/27/2008

Security experts and civil society groups criticized on Monday the government-sponsored bill on state secrecy, claiming it was draconian and lacked clarity.

Defense and security observer Kusnanto Anggoro from the ProPatria Institute said 80 percent of the draft needed revising.

He said the bill was heavy on threats against those who violated the law, but underplayed the government’s responsibility to prevent the disclosure of state secrets.

“The bill does not classify state secrecy clearly. It is also unclear about who has the right to access state secrets,” Kusnanto told a hearing with members of the House of Representatives’ Commission I overseeing defense and security affairs.

Under the bill, individuals who leak state secrets can be jailed for between five and 20 years and fined between Rp 250 million (US$26,880) and Rp 500 billion. The jail sentence could be extended to life imprisonment if the disclosure is considered to have put national security at risk.

“The bill does not oblige the state apparatus to protect state secrets. It focuses instead on criminalizing those who know the secret information,” Kusnanto said.

Monday’s hearing was the first discussion held by Commission I on the bill. Others invited to the hearing included defense and security expert Edy Prasetyono of the Pacivis research center and Agus Sudibyo of the Coalition for Freedom of Information.

Edy criticized an article in the bill which states technical guidance on state secrecy would be formulated by executives from relevant government institutions.

“This means there is a chance for power to be abused,” he said.

Agus said the bill was counter to the law on freedom of public information passed last month.

“The bill only focuses on the bureaucracy’s interests in keeping information confidential and neglects the public interest in accessing information,” he said.

Agus suggested the House and the government let the law on freedom of public information be tested in the public sphere before starting deliberation on the state secrecy bill.

“The state secrecy bill is only relevant when the law on freedom of public information has been proven to be insufficient to protect state secrets,” Agus said.

The Defense Ministry submitted the draft law to the House in September 2006, but its deliberation was postponed pending debate on the bill on freedom of public information.

At the end of the hearing, several lawmakers suggested that the House return the draft and asked the government to revise it. The commission will announce its official position at the next meeting. (alf)


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