The Internet and mobilisation of direct action

Monday, 31 December 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Among the strategic uses for the internet that Indonesian CSOs carry out is mobilising direct action. A salient example of this is the campaign against violation of human rights, forced disappearances, repression towards labourers and trade unions and campaigns for promoting gender equality, women’s rights, environment sustainability amongst others. The targets are typically government, companies and military bodies. In general, the campaign is performed by submitting an online protest on the web or circulating the issues through various mailing lists asking for support to pressurise government, parliament, military and/or companies to reconsider their actions.

Rally against Anti-Pornography Bill
Picture taken from Wikipedia Indonesia

A clear example of this is when CSOs and women’s groups in Jakarta, using the Internet, recently mobilised a campaign against the Indonesian Parliament’s ratification of the ‘Anti Pornography and Porno-action’ Bill (RUU Anti Pornografi dan Pornoaksi), which would heavily restrict pornography in Indonesia. This bill was feared to be the first step towards the implementation of Islamic Sharia law in the country. For most Indonesian CSOs, whose ideology is secular and which make up the biggest part of Indonesian pro-democracy and pro-pluralism social movement, the bill was considered to be fundamentally flawed and undermining women’s and indigenous rights.

One reflection made in the Jakarta workshop recalled,

We believe the Interent has the capacity to support actions materially. Look at the example when we dealt with the RUU-APP [(Pornography Bill)]. We enacted the network of Komnas Perempuan [(National Commission for Women’s Rights)] and used mailing list as our main communication media, even to map who were actually our allies in this issue and who were the enemies, before we finally organised the action. And we succeeded! Terrific! We used the Internet maximally! (Group reflection, Jakarta workshop, 2/03/2006).

Indeed the action was perceived to be successful –although maybe only temporarily. The massive, well organised, closely linked and effectively networked action across the country has indeed put the ratification process of the bill on hold (the case remains on hold).

The introduction of the pornography bill has polarised society in Indonesia, with conservative Islamic groups pressing for its passage into law and many women and pro-democracy groups fearing that anything regarded as pornography by the bill’s sponsors could be restrict (McGibbon, 2006). To many pro-democracy and pro-pluralism groups, the potential of the bill was for it to open the door to a broadly Islamist form of regulation of everyday life. There is widespread agreement across many sections of Indonesian society however, that highly explicit material should be restricted to adults (various media, Feb – Apr 2006).

The lesson learned from the above example is that a key to successful campaigning and networking activities is valuable information exchange, not only simply information acquisition. Therefore while many CSOs unsurprisingly rely more on the Internet today to acquire information, they consciously then use it to ‘elevate issues’ either to get public attention or to prepare the ground for further field actions. It is also clear that ICTs, particularly the Internet, have played a major role in mobilising for protests, dissemination of critical information ideas and points of view, networking with other organisations, and the hosting of virtual discussion forums. As suggested ed by a CSO who has a large international network: “Global civil society is here now. And we are part of this. We can now talk to each other via the Internet and achieve concrete, real results in our co-operation” (Group reflection, Jakarta workshop, 2/03/2006).

As result, it is believed that today more Indonesian CSOs, particularly who have sufficient access to the Internet, have become more cosmopolitan and globalised: they use the Internet to mobilise for action and pressures, to connect people and to exchange views across national boundaries on cross-cutting contemporary and global political, social and economic issues.

Source: Fieldwork, based on the collective reflection of Jakarta workshop (2/3/2006)
(PhD Thesis, Nugroho, 2007:246 – Box 7.1.)

  1. adetanesia
    Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 8:13 am

    Yanuar Nugroho Yth,
    Terima kasih untuk tulisan-tulisan penelitian anda yang sangat menarik. Saya bekerja di Combine Resource Institution, sebuah lembaga nirlaba yang fokus pada pembangunan jaringan informasi berbasis komunitas. Persoalan pemanfaatan TIK pada masyarakat menjadi basis pekerjaan lembaga kami. Kami memulainya dengan radio komunitas, dan kini sedang membuat jaringan …semacam citizen jornalism yang dikelola oleh beberapa jaringan rakom di indonesia. mungkin kita bisa bertukar pikiran mengenai hal ini. thanks : ade tanesia

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