House Speaker Setya Novanto, infamous for dodging corruption charges, gets woman arrested for spreading ‘defamatory’ memes

The photo purporting to show Setya Novanto receiving intensive care at Jatinegara Premier Hospital spawned a meme that has now led to at least one arrest.
The photo purporting to show Setya Novanto receiving intensive care at Jatinegara Premier Hospital spawned a meme that has now led to at least one arrest.

While Indonesia’s speaker of the house, Setya Novanto has been implicated for his alleged involvement in numerous major corruption cases throughout his political career, he has always managed to escape the charges and has never even been arrested.

Which is just one of the many differences between Setya and Dyann Kemala Arrizqi, a 29-year-old woman who did get arrested yesterday by the Jakarta Police for having allegedly created and spread “defamatory” memes about the senior Golkar politician.

One of the memes in question is based on a photo of Setya lying in a hospital bed that was shared by Golkar members in early October as to refute allegations that the house speaker had avoided questioning by the Corruption Eradication Committee (KPK) for his involvement in the massive e-KTP graft case by faking illness.

Many netizens found aspects of the photo to be… suspicious. For example, the EKG machine next to him shows a flat heart rate, which seemed to suggest he had no heartbeat or wasn’t hooked up to the machine. People began making fun of the photo by altering the picture, spawning a meme that quickly grew viral.

Although Setya never publicly responded to the meme at the time, we have now learned that he actually hired several lawyers on October 3 to file police reports on his behalf against people who made and spread the memes for violating the country’s draconian Law on Information and Electronic Transactions (UU ITE) which criminalizes the creation or dissemination of any information that could be considered defamatory or insulting (to anybody) online.

Dyann’s arrest was based on a report filed by Fredrich Yunadi, one of Setya’s attorneys, on October 10. It alleges that she spread a number of pictures and videos defamatory to the House Speaker through Instagram and other social media networks on October 7. One of the memes shown by police shows Setya’s in his hospital bed, but with his head replaced with that of Bane, the villain from The Dark Knight Rises:

It turns out that Dyann is a member of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), a young political party that has anti-corruption as one of its major platforms and whose members have been outspoken in its criticism against Setya. Police say that Dyann has confessed to spreading the memes but did it just for fun and not for profit or at the request of other political actors.

Police have said that reports against several other individuals were also filed by Setya’s lawyers but Dyann is the only one who has been named a suspect. In total, Setya’s lawyers brought 60 memes as evidence against Dyann and the others. 

Dyann could potentially face up to six years in jail if found guilty.

After avoiding questioning with his meme-spawning medical excuse, Setya was eventually named a suspect by the KPK in the e-KTP case but was able to win a pretrial motion that effectively nullified his suspect status, leading to another meme, #ThePowerofSetNov, created by netizens both awed and frustrated by his power to seemingly avoid any and all corruption charges.

The KPK has indicated that they would try to have Setya named a suspect again, possibly using FBI documents that allege the house speaker asked for a bribe from an e-KTP case witness who later committed suicide (after telling the media that his life was threatened due to his involvement in the case). But at the moment, they’re having difficulty even getting Setya to show up for further questioning.

The e-KTP graft case is only the latest instance of Setya dodging corruption charges. He famously was forced to step down as House speaker in 2015 after he was recorded allegedly misusing President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s names to try and secure shares for himself in contract re-negotiations with PT Freeport Indonesia. Setya not only avoided any criminal charges but he was reinstated as house speaker by Golkar last year.

There are too many other cases of Setya’s alleged corruption to mention here so we’ll just point you to the Wikipedia article.

What does it say about the state of justice in Indonesia when a politician like Setya can continue to act the way he does with impunity, while somebody who makes a meme about him gets arrested immediately? You tell us.

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