A lot of us were feeling a certain sense of schadenfreude after musician Ahmad Dhani was found guilty of spreading hate speech and sentenced to 1.5 years in jail on Monday. He had, afterall, helped lead hateful attacks on Basuki “BTP” Tjahaja Purnama (the former Jakarta Governor formerly known as “Ahok”) as well as numerous others people and minority groups (plus we still haven’t forgotten about that Nazi music video…)
But as others who also don’t care for Dhani have noted, the fact that he is being sent to prison for 18 months for a couple of vulgar tweets seems like a serious injustice (no matter how bad he may suck as a person) and another example of how Indonesia’s draconian Law on Electronic Transactions and Information (UU ITE) is a danger to free speech and Indonesian democracy as a whole.
While liberal rights activists have long called upon the government to abolish or at least revise UU ITE, a new voice has joined those calls following Dhani’s guilty verdict — deputy house speaker Fahri Hamzah.
Fahri — a highly outspoken conservative politician from the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) — has called for an end or revision to UU ITE and some of the reasons he gave echo those of the rights activists he usually vociferously condemns.
“We should not allow (UU ITE) to invade freedom of thought and opinion, it should not be allowed, it is also in the interest of journalists for it to be eliminated,” Fahri said today as quoted by Suara.
“People cannot immediately become (criminal) suspects just because they said something insulting, it must have a target. Even insulting the institution of the president shouldn’t be punished like this.”
Fahri, who is supporting the presidential candidacy of Prabowo Subianto, called upon Prabowo to revoke or revise the law should he become president.
The PKS politician is not the only one calling for changes to UU ITE in the wake of Dhani’s sentencing. The secretary general of the United Development Party (PPP) Arsul Sani, called upon another house deputy speaker and Ahmah Dhani defender, Gerindra politician Fadli Zon, to not just complain about the musician’s verdict but do something about it by initiating changes to the law in the legislature.
Could Dhani’s sentence be a turning point, uniting rights activists and conservatives in agreement that UU ITE, as it exists now, has got to go?
Perhaps — the issue of changing the law was also brought up by House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo yesterday in response to the rancor over the celebrity’s jailing. However, Bambang said that the leadership of the various political parties in parliament would have to come together to make such a change occur.
“Those who have the right to revise (UU ITE) are representatives of political parties,” Bambang said yesterday at Parliament as quoted by Kompas. “Please ask the political party leadership whether it’s time to change it or not.”