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Jakarta Post

Democracy activists denounce arrest of scholar accused of defaming Indonesian Military

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 7, 2019   /   11:35 am
Democracy activists denounce arrest of scholar accused of defaming Indonesian Military Scholar Robertus Robet speaks during the Kamisan rally in front of the State Palace on Feb. 28. Robertus was arrested by the police on Thursday for allegedly defaming the Indonesian Military during the rally. (Jakartanicus Youtube channel/File)

Activists and scholars are protesting against the National Police's arrest of university lecturer Robertus Robet for allegedly spreading hate speech against the Indonesian Military (TNI).

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said the police cybercrime unit arrested the sociologist from Jakarta State University (UNJ) at his home at 12:30 a.m on Thursday.

“The suspect was arrested for allegedly insulting an authority or public institution in Indonesia,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Dedi said that Robertus allegedly insulted the military institution during the Kamisan, a weekly protest held in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta, when he sang an old TNI marching song to which the original lyrics had been changed.

Robertus’ song was recorded and uploaded later to social media. In the past, during the New Order, the song was commonly sung by student activists during rallies in protest against the military. Robertus could be charged with defamation and insult under the Criminal Code's (KUHP) Article 207, as well as with violating the 1946 law on criminal procedure and the 2016 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.

Last week, Robertus, who was an activist in 1998, participated in the Kamisan, where protesters rallied against the government’s plan to restructure the TNI, calling it a setback to democracy and to the military reforms established after the fall of Suharto's New Order regime in 1998.

The arrest of Robertus has sparked criticism from activists and scholars, who say it is against freedom of speech.

Rights group Amnesty International Indonesia spokesman Haeril Halim said the arrest was not only a violation against the right to free expression, but it proved that New Order-style silencing practices still occur.

Ubedillah Badrun, a member of the Alliance of Jakarta State University Lecturers for Democracy, urged the police to free Robertus immediately as he had exercised his freedom of speech as allowed by the country’s law. He added that the authorities must protect him and his family from persecution.

“Several military personnel visited his house on Wednesday as part of the terror [tactics],” Ubedillah said in a statement received by The Jakarta Post.

Robertus commented about the song in a video, emphasizing that the lyrics were not written by him and the song was popular during the 1998 student movement.

He explained that the song he sang was about ABRI, which was the acronym of the military prior to the reforms. The song was also not meant to insult the military profession and institution.

“As a lecturer, I know exactly about the efforts being made by the TNI. I have also thought that their reforms are the most advanced reforms,” Robertus said. (das/dmr)