Indonesia’s newly-launched Virtual Police has all but proved its critics right after it shut down a man for his criticism of President Joko Widodo’s son and Solo Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka.
Gibran was quoted in a soccer fanpage on Instagram requesting that the semi-finals and final of the Menpora Cup be held in his city. On Saturday, a Slawi, Central Java resident who goes by the initials AM commented on the post, “What does he know about soccer? He only knows to receive job titles,” alluding to allegations of nepotism in the Solo city administration.
The Virtual Police, launched last month to suppress the number of prosecutions under the controversially ambiguous Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), slid into AM’s DM and warned him to remove his comment. AM was later summoned by the Solo Police to confess and apologize for his comment, a video of which was uploaded by the latter on its official Instagram page yesterday.
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“I apologize to Gibran Rakabuming Raka and the people of Solo. I regret my action and I promise not to do it again. If I do, I will be prepared to face the legal consequences,” AM said in the apology video above.
Solo Police Chief Ade Safri Simanjuntak explained that AM’s comment was classified as a hoax because Gibran did not assume the mayor’s seat from his father and that he won the position through a fairly contested election.
“The comment hurt the General Election Commission (KPU), the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), the military, police, and all the people of Solo who took part in the election,” he said.
AM was not charged and was let go with a warning. Under UU ITE, which critics say can and has silenced legitimate criticism against those in power, online defamation is punishable by up to four years in prison.
Though the Virtual Police is ostensibly a tool to reduce the number of UU ITE prosecutions, rights activists have been concerned about its potential to further curb freedom of expression online. Activists have long argued that a more apt solution would be to thoroughly revise UU ITE’s ambiguous articles.
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