A North Aceh woman has been forced to take her six-month-old baby to prison after she was convicted of defamation under the Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), as concerns continue to grow about unnecessary enforcement of the controversial law.
In April 2020, Isma, 33, posted a video she recorded of her parents arguing with their village head over a land dispute. Though it wasn’t explicitly shown in the video, Isma implied that the village head was aggressive and wanted to hit her mother. The village head then sued her for defamation under UU ITE, leading to her conviction and three months prison sentence on Feb. 8, 2021.
Isma was sent to a prison in Lhoksukon, North Aceh regency to serve her sentence. It has recently come to light that she took her six-month-old baby with her to prison.
“The baby is not a prisoner. But because the baby is still breastfeeding, it was taken to prison too,” Heni Yuwono, who heads the Aceh office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, told reporters yesterday.
Heni added that existing rules allow female inmates to care for their small children, and that special facilities at the prison are provided for such circumstances.
But local lawmakers have questioned the urgency of imprisoning a young mother who is nursing her baby because of a UU ITE violation, and have called for leniency in this case.
The Ministry of Law and Human Rights is reportedly considering placing Isma under city arrest for the remaining two months of her sentence.
Critics have long argued that UU ITE can be, and has been, a tool used by those in power to silence criticism against them thanks to the law’s ambiguous articles on hate speech, defamation, blasphemy, and more.
President Joko Widodo recently called on the National Police to be more selective in enforcing the law to limit unnecessary prosecutions. As calls grow for significant revisions to the law, the National Police has instead launched a virtual police division tasked with directly warning potential UU ITE offenders to take down their posts in lieu of prosecution.