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Jakarta Post

'Fake PKI news' behind anti-communist chaos: LBH-YLBHI

  • Agnes Anya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, September 18, 2017   /   03:35 pm
'Fake PKI news' behind anti-communist chaos: LBH-YLBHI Ghosts of the past: Hundreds of protesters claiming to be from anti-communist groups besieged the headquarters of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation from late Sunday evening to early Monday morning, believing that the office was holding an event related to the disbanded Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). (Antara/Muhammad Adimaja)

The gathering of hundreds of protesters at the headquarters of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI), which eventually culminated in a clash between protesters and the police guarding the office, is believed to have been triggered by viral fake news referring to the long-disbanded Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the YLBHI said in a joint statement with the Jakarta Legal Aid institute (LBH Jakarta).

Pro-democracy activists from LBH Jakarta and the YLBHI released the statement on Monday, following the clash that ensued over the weekend.

They said that the protesters' accusations of them holding a PKI-related event were baseless.

The organizations were instead staging the #AsikAsikAksi event, a creative performance being held as a form of protest against the police, who had dispersed their initial event on Saturday.

The police had dispersed Saturday's planned discussion on the 1965 political and social upheaval on the grounds that the organizations had no permit for the event.

"LBH-YLBHI had explained many times to the police that there was no PKI-related event [...] The Jakarta Police Chief even directly clarified [the situation] and observed us continuously," they stated, adding that the police officers had acknowledged this and explained to the growing mob of protesters that "there was no event related to the PKI or to communism".

But the protesters did not want to listen, they said. 

"It is clear that a hoax or fake news was published, false propaganda went viral, calls to attack the LBH were conducted systematically," the activists said in the statement.

"It went viral that this was a PKI event [where we would sing] Genjer-genjer and so on, but in fact, it was no such thing," they continued, referring to a Javanese folk song that was widely linked to the PKI in 1965.

Spurred on by the fake news, it was believed that some people wanted chaos to erupt at the event, they added.

"LBH assists victims who have been stigmatized by the 1965 incident; they are not affiliated with the PKI, but were victims," they said.

The statement also thanked the Jakarta Police, who had attempted to provide protection to guests and visitors trapped in the LBH Jakarta building as the protesters gathered outside grew increasingly aggressive.

Several police officers were injured when the rabble began throwing rocks and bottles and tried to push their way through the police line at around 1:22 a.m. on Monday.

Messages instructing people to gather and disperse "the PKI event" at the LBH Jakarta that were posted Sunday on social media went viral. One of the messages affiliated itself with the Islam Defenders Front.