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Stop Criminalization Disguised as an Appeal in the Haris and Fatia Case

Translator

TEMPO

Editor

Laila Afifa

18 January 2024 15:10 WIB

TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe prosecutors in the criminalization of Fatia and Haris should withdraw their appeal. This is a threat to freedom of expression.

The prosecution team should end its efforts to criminalize Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar. Although the law allows the prosecutors to appeal, it would be better for them simply to accept the verdict of the East Jakarta District Court, which acquitted Fatia and Haris.

In its ruling, the panel of judges found that Fatia, former coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), and Haris, Executive Director of the Lokataru Foundation were not guilty of defaming Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. Although they were acquitted, the criminalization of Fatia and Haris has gone down as a black mark in the history of upholding human rights in this nation.

From the outset, there has been the impression that there have been efforts to force the defamation case involving Fatia and Haris to go to trial. In a podcast uploaded to YouTube, the two human rights activists were simply discussing the results of research that implied the involvement of Luhut in a mining business in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua.

Fatia and Haris were discussing an issue involving the public interest and environmental sustainability in Papua. Strangely, Minister Luhut reported the two human rights activists to the police. In accordance with Luhut’s accusation, in court, the prosecution attempted to convict Fatia and Haris of defaming and insulting the senior minister in the cabinet of President Joko Widodo.

The opinions aired by Fatia and Haris constitute a part of freedom of expression that must be protected, not criminalized. There was no urgency or national interest in taking this case to court, yet alone to the appeal stage. The move by the prosecutors to appeal will only serve to reinforce the impression that they are acting in the personal interests of those in power.

Moreover, the prosecution appeal will also be considered as a continuing strategy to weaken criticism and public participation in the control of the government. This is even though in the context of a democracy, criticism of the policies and actions of government officials is crucial.

The prosecution should consider the principle of the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) in environmental law. This provides protection for environmental rights activists from reprisals, such as criminalization or civil lawsuits.

If the prosecution ignores the anti-SLAPP provision, it will be bad news for the future of freedom of expression in this nation. According to Amnesty International Indonesia, from 2019 to 2023, at least 535 people were deprived of their freedom of expression in the name of the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.

Instead of insisting on going ahead with an appeal, the prosecution team should follow up on the information about the potential conflicts of interest involving Luhut—as mentioned by Fatia and Haris and recorded in the judges’ ruling. It will be a different story altogether if the prosecution team intentionally stands down from the responsibilities as enforcers of the law and becomes hired thugs of the powerful.

Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine



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