Indonesia’s controversial Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE) is so far-reaching in its application that one ongoing lawsuit is serving as a reminder not to publicly call out people who owe you money online.
A 29-year-old woman named Febi Nur Amelia is currently on trial for defamation under UU ITE at the Medan District Court. Her alleged crime was that she posted a caption on Instagram alleging that a woman named Fitriani Manurung owed her IDR70 million (US$5,104).
Fitriani, a politician for the ruling PDI-P party, is running for deputy mayor in Medan this year. She is also the wife of a high ranking policeman.
According to reports, Febi claimed she lent Fitriani the money in December 2016, which she wired to her husband, who holds the rank of Grand Commissioner (Kombes). In 2017, Febi said she demanded her money back, but Fitriani said she wasn’t able to pay her back and eventually blocked her on WhatsApp.
Febi said she then tried to reach Fitriani via a DM on Instagram, but the message was ignored. In February 2019, Febi tagged Fitriani in an Instagram post that contained the caption, “I remember madam Kombes owes me IDR 70 million. Please ma’am, pay your debt that’s been left unpaid for years.”
The caption reached Fitriani, who then sued Febi for defamation. Strangely, the case went straight to court without a subpoena for Febi, and the plaintiff has since been indicted with disseminating defamatory content against the defendant, which is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison under UU ITE.
“How could I owe IDR70 million? That’s a lot of money, but there is no proof whatsoever … If I owe her money, then she should’ve been the first to report me to the police. There are laws in Indonesia,” Fitriani told Kompas, denying the accusations against her.
Regardless of where the truth lies in this case, UU ITE has long been criticized as a tool used by those in power to silence criticism against them. A study released last year found that the law has been invoked more times than ever in recent years.