Indonesian singer Anji and the latest guest star on his online talk show, Hadi Pranoto, who claims to be a “professor” in microbiology, may face legal consequences for touting a supposed COVID-19 cure in a hugely controversial video.
The video in question was uploaded to Anji’s YouTube channel, Dunia MANJI, in late July under the title, Bisa Kembali Normal? Obat COVID-19 Sudah Ditemukan!! (Can we return to [our normal lives]? COVID-19 cure has been found!!). YouTube reportedly took down the 30-minute interview following widespread complaints from the public.
During the interview with the 41-year-old singer, Hadi claimed to have concocted a herbal drink that could produce “COVID-19 antibody” in the drinker. He said the drink could be taken as a preventive measure or to cure infected patients. Hadi also said, without providing evidence, that the drink has “cured hundreds of thousands of patients” across Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Kalimantan.
Hadi’s credentials then came under intense scrutiny following his wild claims, as the self-proclaimed professor and microbiology expert was actually not registered with the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) nor with any scientific associations in the country. Hadi himself confirmed this fact.
“We have conveyed to IDI that my name is not in their database. Because I am not a doctor, and I don’t have any relations or cooperation with IDI. I never declared myself as a doctor or a professor. They’re the nicknames from my friends because they’re proud that there’s an Indonesian, a common man, who discovered a herbal concoction that’s beneficial for COVID-19 treatment,” Hadi said yesterday addressing the controversies against him.
Hadi insisted that one’s background is not the most important thing when it comes to finding a cure for COVID-19, and that everybody has the right to do so. The Ministry of Research and Technology has stated that Hadi’s herbal drink is being marketed as Bio Nuswa, which is sold on online marketplaces. Though he didn’t mention the name of the brand in the interview with Anji, Hadi himself has confirmed that his herbal drink is indeed called Bio Nuswa.
Additionally, there were reports that suggested Hadi was a PhD graduate from the Agricultural Institute of Bogor (IPB) and a lecturer at Mulawarman University in the East Kalimantan capital of Samarinda. Such claims have been refuted by both institutions.
Both Anji and Hadi were reported to the Jakarta Metro Police yesterday by Muannas Alaidid, a lawyer who heads a group called Cyber Indonesia. Muannas said that both of them must be held responsible for the content of their video, as it has caused unrest among the public. Muannas also said that the report was not for Anji to serve time in prison, but to teach him a lesson not to abuse the platform he has as a celebrity.
It’s worth noting that Muannas, who’s also a politician from Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), has reported a number of people under the accusation of spreading hoaxes, hate speech, and violation of Indonesia’s Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE). Former Prabowo campaigner Ratna Sarumpaet and journalist Farid Gaban were among the people Muannas has reported to the police.
Born Erdian Aji Prihartanto, Anji’s claim to fame was through a mid-2000s pop band called Drive. He left the group in 2011 and has since embarked on a solo career and as a YouTuber, a move that’s popular among Indonesian celebrities in the past couple of years. Prior to his interview with Hadi Pranoto, Anji had a slew of controversies in which he perpetuated COVID-19 conspiracy theories, most notably his accusation that a viral photo of a dead COVID-19 patient by National Geographic photographer Joshua Irwandi was staged to promote fear during the pandemic.
Police will soon question Anji and Hadi regarding their hugely controversial video and COVID-19 cure claim.