Indonesian social media is often awash in fake news, especially around elections, and the government has been fighting these hoaxes with harsh laws that can criminalize the creation and even sharing of these stories. The 2019 presidential election campaign season has not even officially started yet but already one man has been arrested for sharing a fake video aimed at raising ire about President Joko Widodo.
Jakarta Police investigators officially arrested the man, identified by his initials SAA, yesterday but announced that he had been detained and was a member of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) today.
On Friday, SAA shared a video showing students protesting in front of the Constitutional Court building in Jakarta, juxtaposed with video of what looked like a riot in front of the same building. In the caption to the video, SAA wrote that Jakarta was already in the midst of a movement and students were demanding action while using the hashtag #turunkanjokowi (bring down Jokowi). He also asked that the people make the video viral because TV was controlled by the government and wouldn’t show it.
Telah beredar video di Media Sosial terkait aksi unjuk rasa yang berlangsung depan MK adalah Tidak Benar/HOAX.
— Divisi Humas Polri (@DivHumas_Polri) September 14, 2018
The police quickly responded the same day with messages on their own social media explaining that what SAA had shared was a misleading mixture of two different videos. One showed a real but peaceful protest in March by students against the controversial MD3 law. The second was a video actually shot on Friday which showed a police training exercise involving a simulation of a riot taking place in front of the court house building.
“By sharing the simulation, the suspects wanted to make it look as if it was real so that others would really took part in demonstrations (against Jokowi),” Jakarta Police Public Relations Head Argo Yuwono said today as quoted by Kompas.
During the arrest, police said they confiscated two of SAA’s cell phones and got access to his Facebook accounts as evidence. They said they were still investigating the case and might arrest others involved.
A lawyer representing SAA from FPI’s legal aid group, Mirza Zulkarnaen, argued that her client did not have any malicious intent and was simply ignorant about the content of the videos, not knowing about the MD3 law or the police simulation.
Nonetheless, police have named SAA a suspect for violating Indonesia’s controversial Law on Information and Electronic Transactions (UU ITE) which includes articles criminalizing the sharing of online content that is false or defamatory. He could potentially face up to 5 years if found guilty.
Editor’s note: This article previously mistakenly said the videos took place in front of the Supreme Court rather than the Constitutional Court. It has been corrected and updated.