Recent years have seen growing concerns over shrinking civic space in Indonesia. Photo by Anis Efizudin for Antara.

Recently, a number of high-profile cases have highlighted growing threats to academic freedom in Indonesia, amid a broader environment of shrinking civic space. Last month, the imprisonment of Dr Saiful Mahdi from Syaih Kuala University in Aceh, under the draconian Law on Information and Electronic Transactions (known as ITE Law), brought condemnation from academics and civil rights groups across Indonesia and abroad.

In the face of widespread agreement that authorities had overreached, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo eventually granted Saiful amnesty. But this was just one example of the pressure academics and students have faced under the Jokowi administration. And while the government has acknowledged the need for reform of the ITE Law, serious structural, legal and cultural restrictions remain in the higher education sector, and beyond.

What is driving these limits on academic freedom? What has been the impact of the ITE Law on academic freedom? What topics are off limits, and are curbs on academic freedom part of Indonesia’s broader democratic decline?

In this week’s Talking Indonesia podcast, Dr Jemma Purdey discusses these issues and more with Dr Robertus Robet, head of sociology at the State University of Jakarta (UNJ), and a frequent contributor to Indonesia at Melbourne.

In 2021, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from the Australia-Indonesia Centre, Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Annisa Beta from the University of Melbourne’s School of Culture and Communication, and Dr Charlotte Setijadi from Singapore Management University.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.

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