SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 02, 2023

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Indonesia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 2, 2023, police arrested four students who burned photos of state officials during a protest against the ratification of the newly revised Omnibus Law of Job Creation.

Students protested in front of the council building in Pontianak city, Indonesia, criticizing the government’s exclusion of the public in the law revision process on March 31. They burned photos of Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, the chair of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, Puan Maharani, and chair of the West Kalimantan People’s Representative Council of the Republic of Indonesia, M. Kebing L. Two days after the protest took place, the Indonesian police arrested the four students involved in burning the photos. The students were released the following day after apologizing for burning the official’s photos and promising to not repeat the action again.

The 2023 Omnibus Law is the Indonesian government’s most recent attempt to revise previously existing laws, including labor rights, tax rules, and permits for mining and plantation business. Labor organizations, student groups and environmentalists have opposed the law for being overly pro-business and for weakening worker and environmental protection.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of several students exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from interfering in the peaceful exercise of the right to free expression and association. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)