Activists condemn arrest of student who insulted Yogyakarta

Civil-liberty groups have urged police to release Florence Sihombing, a graduate student at Gadjah Mada University’s school of law, who has been detained by the police for insulting the city of Yogyakarta.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) and the Center for Policy and Law Studies (PSHK), said the police had over-reacted by detaining Florence under the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law, for a private statement made without ill intent.

“This is an excessive application of the law by the police,” said Erasmus Napitupulu, a legal expert from the ICJR. Miko Susanto Ginting from the PSHK said Florence may have been rude but she was not involved in a criminal act. “Even a spokesman from the Communication and Information Ministry has confirmed that Florence’s outburst was not a criminal act.”

On Saturday, the Yogyakarta Police detained Florence after a preliminary interrogation following which she refused to sign a dossier for her defamation case.

The police charged her under Article 27 on defamation and Article 28 on hate speech against ethnicity, religion, race and intergroup affiliations (SARA) of the 2008 ITE Law.

Last week, Florence expressed her anger on social-media platform, Path, in which she insulted Yogyakarta and advised her friends not to live in the city, known for its large population of out-of-town students.

“Jogja is poor, idiotic and uncivilized. Friends from Jakarta, Bandung, please stay away from Jogja,” she wrote in one of the posts.

Florence made the comment after being reprimanded by an attendant at a gas station in the city for trying to cut a line for unsubsidized gasoline. She was jeered by other customers following the incident, which occurred when Yogyakarta was experiencing a subsidized fuel shortage last week, with long queues forming at gas stations in the city.

The screen grab from Florence’s post on Path went viral and last Thursday a NGO, calling itself Do Not Betray the People’s Voice (Jatisura) filed a complaint with the Yogyakarta Police.

Sr. Comr. Kokot Indarto, the head of Yogyakarta Police’s special crimes unit, said that Florence would be detained for the next 20 days at the Yogyakarta Police detention center.

Florence’s lawyer, Wibowo Malik, insisted the police had no grounds for detaining Florence. “I can’t accept this detention. I doubt if the detention is even official,” he said, adding that Florence was depressed after being bullied on social media and had received threats of violence.

Wibowo said that Florence had issued an apology to Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, also the governor of Yogyakarta, and the people of Yogyakarta, stating that she had no intention to defame the good name of Yogyakarta.

Following the arrest, a number of prominent natives of Yogyakarta have condemned the excessive use of the law. Actor and comedian Butet Kartaredjasa said the image of Yogyakarta would be further tarnished by the arrest.

“This is the text that I sent to the Yogyakarta Police chief: ‘Release Florence Sihombing. It will be counterproductive and tarnish the police’s image as well as the wisdom of Yogyakartans.’ It would be better for the police to release her,” Butet said in one of his posts on Facebook.

A researcher with Kontras, Alex Argo Hernowo, pointed out that the police had erroneously applied the ITE Law in the case. Alex said that Florence only mentioned the name of Yogyakarta in her post, and, therefore, could not be subject to the ITE Law, which is only concerned with human beings, not a city.

Alex added that the police had also ignored Article 43 of the law which stipulated that the police had to seek approval, through a public prosecutor, from the chief of a local district court to detain an individual under the law.

“Florence has shown her good intention by apologizing to the community. She also showed up for the interrogation session. So based on articles 20 and 21 on detention of the Criminal Code, she should be released.” (ask)

The Jakarta Post

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