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No Comment, No Way

New Indonesian Transparency of Information Law Will Limit Police's Ability to Answer the Press with 'No Comment."

(5/8/2010) Under new transparency rules that became effective May 1, 2010, Indonesian government officials must meet new, tougher standards of disclosure in public administration.

One of government agencies most affected by the new standards of "openness" will be the police, who are now by and large officially banned from resorting to "no comment" when fielding questions from the public and the press. As reported by Beritabali.com, law no. 14 of 2008 regarding access of public information is being embraced by the police as evidenced by a recent coordinating meeting held in Bali and attended by all the police precincts island-wide. General Edward Aritonang, the man in charge of public relations for the national police also attended the Bali meeting, telling the press that the police are embracing the new rules on openness as an essential element of national reformation.

General Aritonang, who was the second-in–command on the investigative team that handled the first Bali terrorist bombing in 2002, explained that the press can no longer be told "no comment" when asked for information that now, according to the new rules, is in the public domain. Underlining this point, Aritonang said, "the police are forbidden to say 'no comment.'"

In real terms, police officers who take refuge behind a "no comment" barrier are subject to disciplinary sanctions. Exempted from the new rules of openness are several areas treated as confidential by the police including details of investigative procedures; details surrounding ongoing investigations; information that endangers the lives of segments of society; or information that threatens public order, such as issues related to terrorism.