Celebrating freedom of expression in Indonesia.

5 March 2021 - Becca Melhuish

Led by Citizen OS Indonesia, the first ever Indonesian Opinion Festival saw 527 participants come together to discuss important social issues, with outcomes being passed on to government for action.

Poster of computer drawings of four people in different actions of expressing their opinions and the following text: Citizen OS Indonesia proudly presents Indonesia Opinion Festival February 27th, 2021.

Last Saturday, 527 participants and 62 speakers gathered to celebrate freedom of opinion in the country’s first ever Opinion Festival, organised by Citizen OS Indonesia and facilitated online.

Discussing a variety of topics presented by expert speakers, participants were encouraged to voice their opinions freely and openly, while also respecting the opinions of others on each side of the debate. Discussions were split into three themes—environment, health and education—with proposals having been crowd-sourced and voted on through the free Citizen OS e-decision platform prior to the event.

In keeping with Citizen OS’s mission—to enable as many people as possible to participate in decisions that affect their own wellbeing—the results of the discussions are being compiled in a recommendation paper for follow up action. This paper will be presented to the government and other relevant stakeholders, enabling a direct channel for the public to have their voices heard by those in power.

Agustina Iskandar, civic activist and leader of Citizen OS Indonesia, explains why she decided to bring this idea to life:

"Our country has a strong culture of community deliberation and collective decision-making, and we wanted to build on and celebrate this through our event.

We hope the Festival has been a catalyst to build momentum for the celebration of freedom of expression by the Indonesian public, encourage more parties to engage in collective decision-making, help improve participants’ argumentation skills, and build strong networks for civil society collaborations."

The event was inspired by the annual Opinion Festival organised in Citizen OS’s home country Estonia. The Estonian Opinion Festival is part of a network of eight Democracy Festivals throughout Northern Europe, who have joined forces to establish an International Democracy Festivals Association.

The Association explains the rationale behind Democracy Festivals:

"Democracy is more than democratic institutions and written rules. It is a culture that has to be nourished through the creation of spaces and platforms where people can physically get together, talk to each other, get inspired, exchange opinions and debate their ideas.

Democracy Festivals foster active civic engagement, a culture of discussing and critical thinking as a response to the alarming rise of authoritarianism and nationalism in our geographic neighbourhood."

Not to be thwarted by a pandemic, Agustina and her team worked to move their planned Opinion Festival online, giving participants from all over the country to participate virtually. She says:

"We are so pleased that despite the COVID-19 pandemic we were able to attract so many participants to attend the Festival.

While virtual discussions have their downsides, one definite benefit was that we were able to engage a much wider section of society in our events as a result – with participants from many different islands, not just from the capital"

The event was organised by Citizen OS Indonesia in collaboration with youth organisation Gerakan Mari Berbagi, volunteering platform Indorelawan and fifty-one local community partners. It was supported by Jakarta Propertindo and One Click Democracy. Please visit the festival’s webpage (Indonesian only) for further information.