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Jakarta Post

‘We assumed the account was taken down by Instagram’: Govt jumps the gun on gay comics disappearance

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, February 16, 2019   /   12:47 pm
‘We assumed the account was taken down by Instagram’: Govt jumps the gun on gay comics disappearance A screengrab shows one of the comics uploaded on the account. (Instagram.com/alpantuni)

The Communications and Information Ministry has admitted to jumping the gun when it announced on Wednesday that social media platform Instagram had fulfilled its request to shut down an account featuring a comic strip depicting the sufferings of a gay Muslim man. 

The ministry, however, said it was not to blame for the misunderstanding.

“We published [the press release] because we had not heard a single word from Instagram [until Wednesday] so don’t blame us when we assumed that the account was taken down by Instagram,” ministry spokesman Fernandinus Setu told The Jakarta Poston Friday.

The ministry said there had been no news from Instagram since the account @alpantuni was reported to the social media platform on Feb. 2.

“I was called by Instagram Indonesia last Wednesday […] I asked, ‘why have you been silent all this time?’” he said. “They answered that they need to coordinate with Instagram International first to analyze the situation carefully, which means that they could not immediately inform the ministry.

The ministry claimed it had requested the shutdown of an Instagram account with a similar name in January and it was taken down within 24 hours. 

Instagram was quick to deny the government’s initial claim that it had taken down the account, saying that it was possible that the controversial account, which has triggered a moral panic about the rise of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Indonesia, was deleted by its mysterious owner.

Despite the admission, the ministry insisted that @alpantuni should be taken down as it contained “pornographic material”, even though the comic strip did not feature frontal nudity though it showed half-naked men in bed.

“Pornography does not mean that the private parts have to be visible but rather an implied understanding that the character is naked,” Fernandinus said.

The account has stirred controversy as it brought to the fore the issue of homosexuality and its relation to Islam, the religion professed by the majority of Indonesians. The ministry claimed that it had received 6,000 complaints from the public about the content of the account. 

Fernandinus suspected that the owner had shut down his or her account because of the massive backlash.

The ministry played down the incident, saying that it had already blocked over a million web pages and social media accounts. (mai)