Indonesian teacher records her boss sexually harassing her — but it’s she who is jailed
Laws governing free speech in Indonesia are under the spotlight after a teacher was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $47,000 for recording evidence of her boss sexually harassing her.
- The ITE law was controversially revised two years ago in November 2016
- More than 380 people have been charged by the law since its revision
- Critics say the law is hampering free speech in the country
Baiq Nuril, 37, was found guilty in the country’s Supreme Court of circulating indecent content and defamation.
Ms Nuril told the court she recorded conversations with her principal to gather evidence and protect herself from sexual harassment.
“He always said inappropriate things as a principal — like detailing vulgar sexual accounts — either in phone calls or face to face conversation,” she said.
The court was told the recording was saved on a laptop belonging to her colleague before it was widely spread through a mobile messaging app without her consent.
The principal then reported Ms Nuril to the police, alleging she had defamed him.
“This is not fair to me because I feel like I’m not guilty at all,” Ms Nuril told the ABC.
“I was sexually harassed.”
Although the court decision came down in September, the aftermath has snowballed and created controversy around Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) law.
The law is intended to protect Indonesians from cyber crimes and bullying online, however, many experts and NGOs say a controversial revision of the law in November 2016 that made some of its clauses murkier has severely stifled freedom of speech.
The South-East Asia Freedom of Expression Network has reported that more than 380 people have been charged and “victimised” under the ITE law in the two years since the revision — a sharp increase in charges when compared to the 71 cases that were seen since the law was originally introduced in 2008.
Almost 50 per cent of the 380 recent cases have been related to defamation, and the significant amount of others related to blasphemy and hate speech.
In 2017, Jakarta’s Christian Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was charged with “blasphemy” against a verse in the Koran via the ITE law and later jailed.
‘Our freedom of speech is being threatened’
Earlier this month an association of ITE law — made up of people who feel they have been criminalised under the law — called for the Government to eliminate “all rubber articles”, a phrase to refer to the ambiguous language around some of the laws.
“The articles are too open to interpretation and are never clear on the definition of defamation, and that [ambiguity] has been misused,” Furqan Ermansyah, an association member, told the ABC.
“I feel like our freedom of speech is being threatened.”
Last weekend, Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Rudiantara, admitted that the law had been misused, but rather than change it said that the Government would try to make sure that it did not get misused anymore.
Mr Rudiantara added that the case of Ms Nuril should be taken as a lesson for other people to be more careful when using digital devices.
Mr Widodo has said he cannot intervene in the ruling. (Reuters: Darren Whiteside, file photo)
The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform — a Jakarta-based non-profit organisation — told the ABC that the main problem with the ITE law is that it consists of a set of regulations already covered in the Penal Code, which is derived from the legacy of Dutch colonialism.
“So there are a lot of duplication legal articles [in Indonesian law] which shouldn’t be there,” institute executive director Anggara Suwahju said.
Mr Suwahju added that having the ITE law only gives the impression that the current Government is unnecessarily suppressive.
“People will look back and think that justice was moving backward under President Joko Widodo,” he said.
Pressure has been mounting on Mr Widodo to grant Ms Nuril amnesty from her conviction, but last week he said he could not intervene in the ruling and urged everyone to respect the legal process.
However, Mr Widodo encouraged Ms Nuril to submit a case review to the Supreme Court and added that if the case review didn’t provide justice, she could apply for clemency from the President.
“That’s where I come in,” he said, according to the Jakarta Post.
The ITE law association has said that if the law cannot be revised, then the Government should create more public awareness about it to prevent cases like Ms Nuril’s.
“Like Nuril, many others of the victims such as myself weren’t fully aware about the law,” Mr Ermansyah told the ABC, adding that people were being silenced by the law.
“In Indonesia now, it’s like there’s so many beautiful birds, but none of them can sing.”