The Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) has criticized the hate speech verdict handed down against Bali-based musician I Gede Ari Astina, better known as Jerinx, saying his conviction was "unacceptable".
The Denpasar District Court in Bali sentenced Jerinx to 14 months in prison with a fine of Rp 10 million (US$706) on Thursday after finding him guilty of spreading hate speech against the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) through his social media account.
SAFEnet executive director Damar Juniarto said the judges had made a mistake in interpreting the definition of hate speech under the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.
"It is unacceptable that the court hands down such a verdict. The clause that the judges charged against him has been used incorrectly all this time to define hate speech," Damar said on Thursday.
Jerinx was charged for violating Article 28 of the ITE Law, which bans the spread of information aimed at fueling hatred based on ethnicity, religion or race after accusing the IDI of being “flunkeys” of the World Health Organization in a post on his Instagram account.
"Because they’re proud of being the WHO’s flunkeys, the IDI and hospitals arbitrarily mandated that anyone who is about to give birth be tested for COVID-19,” Jerinx wrote on his Instagram account, @jrxsid, on June 13. “There is so much evidence that the test results are inaccurate, so why force it? If the test causes stress or death for the baby or mother, who will take responsibility?"
Damar said that although it was possible that Jerinx's Instagram post could influence people's opinions, it could not be categorized as an "information that could incite hate or hostility" against a certain group of people.
"Although what Jerinx wrote might change people's decisions related to the pandemic, the main point of this case is the judges' failure in defining hate speech," he said as quoted by kompas.com. "The verdict was wrong and should be criticized."
He expressed hope that Jerinx would file an appeal against the verdict.
The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) has also criticized the court's decision to include the IDI, a professional association, as a "societal group" protected under Article 28. The group also argued that Jerinx had criticized the IDI as an organization, and not doctors in general.
"This verdict poses a threat to democracy in Indonesia as the judges have put a specific profession in the same position as a race, tribal group or religion, which would allow every professional association to report someone for committing a hate crime against their profession," ICJR executive director Erasmus Napitupulu said.
Separately, Bali Prosecutor's Office spokesperson A. Luga Harlianto argued that the court verdict was based on sufficient evidence.
"We appreciate the panel of judges for having handed down the verdict based on concrete evidence instead of assumptions," Luga said on Thursday, adding that prosecutors were still undecided on the possibility of appealing the case.
Jerinx' lawyer, Sugeng Teguh Santoso, said his client was disappointed in the verdict. They planned to discuss further whether or not to file an appeal, tempo.co reported. (nal)