The photo of President Joko Widodo and the Suku Anak Dalam tribesmen that started the controversy. Photo: Twitter/@jokowi
A photo supposedly depicting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo speaking with members of the Suku Anak Dalam tribe in Sarolangun, Jambi, is going viral. Not because people are touched by his empathy for people living in one of Indonesia’s most remote regions, but because netizens have reason to believe the photo was faked in some way for publicity purposes.
Jokowi tweeted the original photo on Saturday along with the message, “The Suku Anak Dalam are a part of us. They need adequate living space.”
Jokowi was praised as being the first Indonesian president to personally reach out to members of the remote tribe and engage them in dialog, listening to their requests to build out electrical and water infrastructure to their villages.
But the next day IT expert and former Minister of Youth and Sports Roy Suryo caused a stir with this tweet, featuring four photos of the president, including ones with tribesmen in traditional clothing and some with men in more modern outfits.
“Tweeps, I do not need to comment on the photos, it’s already standard for the shot to be done in a setting in which the results look good.”
The implication, as clearly illustrated in this photo, is that the men in traditional clothes and modern clothes are the same.
This, of course, led many netizens to speculate that the photos were somehow engineered for publicity’s sake.
Although the photographic evidence might seems to suggest that, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansah has denied the allegations, saying the photos were taken at different times with different groups of people.
Regardless of the authenticity of the photos, the National Police are taking the matter very seriously. National Police Chief Badrodin Haiti told Rappler that calling the photos engineered was a form of hate speech that is defamatory towards the president and that it would be treated as a criminal case.
However, the law prevents the police from officially pursuing the case without a complainant, and so far the presidential palace has decided not to file any defamation charges against people spreading the meme. But the police, still determined to pursue the “hate speech” crime, said they would pursue the case just to gather “intelligence data.”
Police Chief Badrodin recently released a circular telling all members of the police to actively fight hate speech in all its form. But in this case, hate speechis ambiguously defined as including slander, defamation and the spreading of lies. Their pursuit of this photograph case, despite not getting an official complaint from the palace, would seem to indicate that they are eager to usher in a new climate of fear and censorship to Indonesia.