The Jakarta Post
Yusniar, a 27-year-old housewife, never thought that a comment on her personal Facebook account would put her in detention, lead to a trial and possibly send her to jail.
A resident of Jl. Sultan Alauddin in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Yusniar has been charged with violating the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law and the Criminal Code (KUHP) on defamation, which carry a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
She was detained by the Makassar prosecutor’s office on Oct. 24 and has been undergoing trial at the Makassar District Court since Nov. 2.
The case began when Sudirman Sijaya, a councilor of the Jeneponto legislative council in South Sulawesi, who said he was also a lawyer, filed a report against Yusniar over a Facebook post.
She wrote a status on March 14 in Makassarese that read: “Thank God. The problem is finally over. Stupid councilor, stupid lawyer. [You] want to help a guilty person, [but it is] clearly my parents’ land [that you] came and disturbed.”
The post came a day after her parent’s house on Jl. Sultan Alauddin was attacked by 100 people, including Sudirman. Yusniar did not mention any names in her status.
Yusniar’s lawyer, Abdul Azis Dumpa of the Makassar Legal Aid Institute (LBH), said on Thursday that the charge was forced and did not have any legal standing.
“The status on my client’s Facebook account did not contain elements of insults or defamation because no name was mentioned. The plaintiff does not have legal standing,” he said.
However, Sudirman insisted that the status clearly referred to him and was publicly known about.
“I didn’t know about Facebook. I know about the status because many people told me that I was abused and insulted,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yusniar questioned the case, saying she wrote the status simply as a form of expression as she was emotional after the mob damaged her parents’ house. The property had been involved in a family dispute between her father Baharuddin and his sister Daeng Kebo.
Efforts to settle the dispute were made by the Pa’baeng-baeng subdistrict administration but Daeng Kebo failed to attend.
“All of a sudden on March 13 a group of some 100 people came, promptly damaging [the property], but we stopped them,” Yusniar said, adding that someone then yelled, “Just demolish it! I am a councilor and a lawyer”.
“In fact we did not know who had come,” she said.
Tamalate Police personnel stopped the mob from demolishing the house. The police also organized a meeting between the two disputing parties and Sudirman prepared a document for a peaceful agreement. The case was not taken to court and Baharuddin considered it over.
The event inspired Yusniar to write the Facebook status that later led to her detention. She and her father visited Sudirman three times in Jeneponto to apologize and ask him to halt the case, but Sudirman refused, she said.
Two proposals for suspended detention have been filed but have not yet been granted.
The case adds to a list of people implicated in crimes because of the draconian law, which has been deemed by the public as a threat to freedom of expression. The most infamous was housewife Prita Mulyasari, who was declared guilty and sent to prison for complaining about OMNI International Hospital in 2009 through a private email that went viral. The most recent case involved a man in Medan, North Sumatra, who was sentenced to 14 months in prison in August for being tagged in a story on Facebook.
The House of Representatives passed a revised draft of the ITE Law on Oct. 27, which provided more detail on online defamation to prevent multiple interpretations. However, further steps are pending and the law has not yet taken effect.
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