Friday, December 4, 2015

An Alternative Campaign on the “End the Death Penalty” Campaign by Amnesty International in Indonesia

AI's Campaign at Hyde Park Sydney (C) Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) has been campaigning the “End the Death Penalty” (EDP) since 1977 when only 16 countries have abolished death penalty and now in 2015 the number has increased to 140 countries or almost two-thirds off all countries worldwide (AI 2015). However, AI’s campaign in Indonesia on the issue of EDP has been started since 1980s, but up until now, Indonesia is still retaining death penalty in it laws and is also still practicing death penalty for serious crimes such as terrorism and drug dealers (Rothwell 2015).

Since 2008, AI has been using the “Bali Nine” case as a policy window (Howlett, Ramesh and Perl 2009: 103-104) to push Indonesian government to give clemency for Bali Nine’s ringleaders – Sukumaran and Chan – and to abolish the death penalty from Indonesian laws and constitution. Unfortunately, after the implementation of several strategies such: rally campaigns, petition to the President of Indonesia, asking for clemency video, social media, as well as International support, AI has been unsuccessful to urge Indonesian government to give clemency for Sukumaran and Chan and to abolish death penalty in Indonesia. Sukumaran and Chan – along with other 6 drug dealers from Indonesia, The Netherlands, Nigeria, and Brazil were executed in April 2015 (The Guardian 2015).

In addition, Indonesia is planning to execute 14 people in the death row next year (CNN Indonesia 2015) and on the other hand, 281 Indonesian migrant workers are now facing capital punishment overseas (Jakarta Post 2015). These current developments should become important policy windows for AI to campaign EDP in Indonesia.

Strengths and Weaknesses

By evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of AI campaign on EDP in Indonesia, the new alternative campaign which addresses the weaknesses can be implemented to achieve the goal of EDP campaign. Several strengths of AI are: AI is the biggest human rights organisation worldwide and has various global networks including governments and the UN who able to push Indonesian government to abolish death penalty, AI also has local networks in Indonesia mainly from Human Rights NGOs and AI also uses various campaign materials to spread their idea on EDP both offline and online such as website, social media, online donations, online and paper-based petition as well as rally and gathering (AI 2015).

Despite several strengths above, several weaknesses can also be drawn from previous campaign strategy such as: the use of English language for most of campaign materials in and/or for Indonesia, AI is considered as an outsider stakeholder (Maloney, Jordan and McLaughlin 1994: 29-31) as they do not have office or licence to operate in Indonesia, the use of international power and the use of “megaphone diplomacy” by some foreign governments including Australia (SMH 2015) can also be shown as a counter-productive acts to some efforts have been made by national human rights NGOs.  

Alternative Campaign 

In order to gain the support from Indonesian citizens and government on the EDP, the new alternative campaign should consider national government agenda (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 121) so the EDP agenda will be recognised as part of the government’s agenda. On the other side, AI should maintain their transnational civil society networks to promote international norms to change the policies and practice of the government (Price 2003: 583) against the capital punishment. In short; the alternative campaign strategy should use internal capacity of Indonesian government and citizens by building capacity from inside and the support of international community from outside.

Strategy and Tactics

Based on the alternative campaign strategy above, to maximise the possibility of success of the campaign, several strategies and tactics can be implemented such as: recognising Indonesia’s problem on death penalty, using popular media campaign, targeting organisation with high influence to policy makers, and the use of soft diplomacy to push Indonesian government to abolish the death penalty.

Recognising Indonesia’s Problem on the Death Penalty

Recognising the real problem is important part in setting up the agenda (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 121). Moreover, Kingdon (1984, as cited by Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 120) argues that the agenda is the list of problems or subject in which people and government are paying serious attention to them. AI has been using the case of the execution of eight drug dealer prisoners including two Australian men – Sukumaran and Chan – as a policy window.

The use of this case as a policy window to push policy change within Indonesia law system was weak and vague because at the same time, the real problem acknowledge by Indonesian government are the fact that Indonesia becomes international drug market (Jakarta Post 2015) with more than 5.6 million drug users and 50 people die from drugs everyday (Hamid and Sriyana 2014: 190-192; Rahmad and Askar 2015) therefore – according to Indonesian government – capital punishment for drug traffickers should be imposed in order to make deterrent effect.

In order to gain support from Indonesian people and government, the EDP campaign should focus on interest of the public in Indonesia. There are two important aspects of public interest advocacy; the issue must have the potential effect to a number of people and there will be disadvantages if the issue was ignored (PIAC 2003: 3). One of the important example of public interest with regard to the issue of death penalty is the fact that 281 migrant workers are now facing death penalty abroad (Jakarta Post 2015).

In 2014, Indonesian government paid $2.1 million in blood money to stop the execution of a woman maid in Saudi Arabia and this year Indonesia also agreed to pay for $7 million to save another Indonesian women maid in Saudi Arabia from capital punishment (The Daily Telegraph 2015). In response to this issue, and also to win Indonesian government’s heart, AI should use this issue as a policy window and focus its campaign to help Indonesian government to save Indonesian citizen from the execution abroad. By doing this, AI could also shift their position as the outsider onto insider stakeholder (Maloney, Jordan and McLaughlin 1994: 29-31) and could possibly make their campaign easier to be accepted by policy makers in Indonesia.

The use of popular media in Indonesia in shaping public opinion

It is undoubtable that media play important role in shaping public opinion (Takeshita 2005: 275). Moreover, Andrew and Chan (2010: 1) argue that news media can influence the shape of public agenda by influencing opinion of the public, authorities and also elites. Unfortunately, AI’s campaign penetration in Indonesia was mostly done by internet where the number of internet users in Indonesia is minority or only 29% of the population (Jakarta Post 2015).

According to accessibility bias model, people tend to rely on information with high accessibility when making judgments (Takeshita 2005: 276). Therefore, in order to shape public opinion on the importance of the EDP, AI – together with its local partners in Indonesia – should focus their campaign in popular media such as television and radio. According to the data from Communications and Information Ministry, media penetration in Indonesia is led by television (95%) and radio (47%) while newspapers and magazines are only 25% and 13% respectively (Jakarta Post 2015). This is important to spread the idea to general people including low-income citizens – the one who only can access television and radio as their sources of information – because according to mass behavior research, the view of general citizens will be taken more seriously by politicians and government (Kimball et al 2012: 6-7).

In addition, in order to get more Indonesians understand the importance of the EDP, AI should also use Indonesian language or even some major local languages in their campaign materials. AI campaign materials are mostly in English while the use of English in Indonesia was very low. Indonesians’ English proficiency is ranked at 34 out of 44 countries surveyed in 2007-2009 (Kompas 2011). Moreover, majority of Indonesians (79.5%) tend to communicate with their own local languages, 19.9% use Indonesian language, and only 0.3% use foreign languages for daily conversation (BPS 2010: 11).        

Targeting Stakeholders with High Influence on Policy Making Processes

By using stakeholder power analysis (Mayers 2005: 11-12), several stakeholders can be categorised as stakeholders with high potential and high power to influence policies that AI should collaborate with, such as: political parties, parliament members, court system (judges and attorneys) and two biggest religious organisations: Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama. During its campaign in Indonesia in 2008 until 2015, AI – through their video and petition – only targeted Indonesian President without targeting parliament members and political parties (AI 2015; SkyNews 2015).

AI’s Long term campaign in Indonesia should target political parties and their members in the parliament instead of only targeting president or minister as they could be changed every 5 years. This is crucial because political parties play important role in shaping government’s policies (Ware 1996: 353-354). Leftwich (2000: 4-17) also argues that politics takes central part in development policy. In addition, Court and Young (2006: 86) state that the cycle of policy process are all significantly shaped by the political context.

Moreover, AI with its local partners in Indonesia should also target judges and attorneys in their campaign and activities by doing training, focus group discussions or workshops. This is important as the implementation of the death penalty in Indonesia depends on the decision of judges by considering the prosecution from attorneys. In the Bali Nine case for example, all members of the Bali Nine were actually charged to capital punishment by the prosecutors (ABC 2005) but at the end of the day, only Sukumaran and Chan were sentenced to death by the Denpasar District Court in 2006 (ABC 2006).

Kimball et al (2012: 6) argue that lobbying agenda can shift the priority of the government policies. Therefore, lobbying agenda to some organisations with high power and high influence to policies such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama should also be implemented in order to gain their supports.

Soft Power Diplomacy

Soft power diplomacy or the use of diplomacy by focusing on making friends rather than creating enemies is a critical component of foreign policy and it can be used to achieve goals in international relations (Cooper et al 2013: 553). The opposite of soft power is hard power diplomacy which largely monopolised by hierarchical structure and can be done by making sanctions or other negative political reactions (Cooper et al 2013: 564-568).

In doing the campaign of EDP in Indonesia, the use of soft power will likely be successful rather than the use of hard power or also “megaphone diplomacy” as practiced by Australian government and Amnesty International through their announcements, media press releases and menaces (AI 2015; SMH 2015). Australia’s “megaphone diplomacy” and lack of consultation over several policies has caused harmed relations between two countries and widespread unhappiness in Indonesia and therefore should be fixed (SMH 2015). 

Since the EDP campaign in Indonesia is part of the Transnational Civil Society Advocacy Networks (Carpenter 2007: 102; Price 2003: 584), the use of local norm, cultures and standards is important strategy need to be implemented in order to achieve the goal of movement organisations (Stroup and Murdie 2012: 428). Moreover, AI should also consult and work with its networks in Indonesia to avoid any counter-productive actions or even backlash of nationalism sentiment within Indonesia. Basuki (2015:n.p) argues that the indignant reactions and aggressive statements and actions by some foreign leaders and activist have been counter-productive to efforts that have been done by human rights civil society networks in Indonesia.


AI campaigns on the EDP since 1977 have been successful in many countries, unfortunately the campaign has been unsuccessful in Indonesia despite many efforts have been done by AI and also its networks in Indonesia. Therefore, in order to have a bigger chance of success, AI and its networks should implement a new alternative approach to their campaign strategy including the use of right policy window by recognising Indonesia’s problem on death penalty, the use of popular media in order to get more citizens’ attention and supports, targeting stakeholders with high influence and power and also the use of soft power diplomacy and focus on engagement rather than confrontation actions. 

Written by: Agung Wasono (October 2015)


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