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Jakarta Post

Activists, lawmakers criticize disclosure of personal information of COVID-19 patients

  • Rizki Fachriansyah and Muh. Ibnu Aqil

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, March 3, 2020   /   05:08 pm
Activists, lawmakers criticize disclosure of personal information of COVID-19 patients Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto speaks to the press at the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Disease Hospital (RSPI Sulianti Suroso) isolation building in Jakarta on Monday. He said that two Indonesian citizens had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease resulting from the novel coronavirus and that they were currently in the hospital’s isolation room. -JP/Seto Wardhana/Adi/2 (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Activists and lawmakers have called for more considerate reporting on the country’s first confirmed coronavirus cases following the unprecedented disclosure of the patients’ personal information on social media platforms on Monday.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) urged the media to respect the privacy of COVID-19 patients by not disclosing their personal identities or private information regarding their families or home addresses in order to prevent mass panic.

The AJI also called on the press to speak to the most credible sources on the issue, as opposed to publishing “sensationalized” pieces on the patients and their families.

“The government is obligated to provide accurate, credible and transparent information regarding COVID-19,” the organization further noted in the statement.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced on Monday that two Indonesians had tested positive for COVID-19, the first two confirmed cases of the disease in the country.

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He said the two women, a 64-year-old and her 31-year-old daughter, both residents of Depok, West Java, had been in contact with a Japanese citizen who tested positive in Malaysia on Feb. 27 after visiting Indonesia in early February.

The President’s announcement was shortly followed by the posting of a report, which had purportedly originated from the Health Ministry, detailing the patients’ personal information, including their home address. The report has since circulated on social media, including WhatsApp groups.

House of Representatives (DPR) lawmaker Charles Honoris has urged the government to ensure the privacy of its citizens in relation to the spread of the coronavirus, saying that privacy is one of the constitutional rights stipulated in the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945).

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“The mass disclosure of private information of coronavirus patients through social media or other platforms should be taken seriously as a violation of citizens’ privacy. The state must be able to respect the privacy of its citizens and close whatever loopholes have allowed such a violation to take place,” Charles said in a statement.

He went on to say that the government must learn from Singapore and Japan in this regard, specifically how the two countries had implemented a zero-tolerance privacy policy to protect the personal lives of its confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Indonesian Ombudsman (ORI) chairman Amzulian Rifai shared the sentiment, saying that he hoped the government would be able to explain the disclosure of the patients’ personal information since it was a matter of citizens’ privacy.

“We have been overwhelmed with information. But which information should we trust? So much information is circulating on each of our phones, which is why the government must lead ahead in the front line to provide accurate information to prevent the public from panicking,” Amzulian said on Tuesday.