Concerns that the Indonesian government will keep using the country’s draconian Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE) to silence critics seem unlikely to be addressed this year as there have already been two questionable convictions under the law in just the first few weeks of 2018.
After a man was sentenced to 1 year in jail last week for criticizing his fellow Muslims’ treatment of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, today a teenager was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for violating the ITE law by insulting President Joko Widodo as well as National Police Chief Tito Karnavian.
The teenager — an 18-year-old from Medan, North Sumatra, identified by his initials MFB — had created a Facebook alias by the name of Ringgo Abdillah – complete with fake photos of an unidentified man – to upload memes insulting President Jokowi online (a photo in this link shows that MFB uploaded a photo of Jokowi edited to make it look like he’s the devil).
On top of that, MFB also posted statuses on Facebook taunting the police to find and catch him, such as this one below that reads, “A week has passed, yet not one cop has arrested me. What is going on with the police institution?”
But find him they eventually did. A warrant for his arrest was filed on July 16 and MFB was arrested about a month later by the Medan Police.
Maman, MFB’s father, apologized to Jokowi and Tito and pled to have the charges against his son dropped, claiming his son was “just naive”, but to no avail.
At the conclusion of MFB’s trial today, the panel of judges declared he had violated UU ITE by slandering the good name of the president and the police chief. The 1.5 year sentence was less than the 2 years demanded by the prosecution.
It was reported that during the trial, the teenager admitted to insulting the president and police chief, but said it was due to his frustration at unsuccessful governmental policies, ranging from the problem of rising food prices to the high unemployment rate.
Was it wise for him to express his frustrations over those very real problems by posting insulting memes about two of the country’s top leaders online? Probably not. But does he deserve to spend the next 18 months of his life in jail for that? The judges in the case have spoken, but what do you think?