Much Ado over a Nothing Book

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  • `Jokowi Undercover` book.

    `Jokowi Undercover` book.

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - In responding to the controversy over the book Jokowi Undercover, the police should stop going beyond the call of duty by trying to find out the mastermind behind the book or tracking down those who bought the book. The arrest of Bambang Tri Mulyono, author of the shoddily written book, should suffice. 

    Clearly the 436-pages book is trashy and tasteless, a compilation of hoax reports on President Joko Widodo, scattered across the internet and cyber chatrooms. Bambang never resorted to any field research. He printed the 'book' at a roadside photocopy kiosk. His motive: to be recognized. 

    In his book, Bambang said that Jokowi's real father was Widjiatno Mihardjo, chairman or commander of OPR (People's Resistance Operations) of the Boyolali chapter of the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI) and his mother Sudjiatmi was secretarygeneral of Gerwani, the PKI's women's wing. These assertions were vehemently denied by Jokowi's mother Sudjiatmi Noto Mihardjo and his uncle Miyono Suryo Sarjono. Michael Bimo, a Solo businessman, also refuted the book's content which claimed that he and President Jokowi belonged to the same family line. He said Bambang Tri Mulyono had committed slander.

    Numerous biographies on Jokowi have been written and published. Jokowi actually could have straightened out the erroneous information in this book through a press conference. This case reminds us of the Gurita dari Cikeas (Cikeas Octopus) written by George Junus Aditjondro during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's era, which unmasked nonprofit foundations that were allegedly laundering SBY's campaign funds. George at that time boldly declared that all the data in his book were duly verified. SBY did not respond to the book in a confrontational manner and George was never charged with any crime.

    The Jokowi Undercover case is similar to one in 1974, when POP magazine published reports about Suharto's background. According to the official biography, Suharto's parents were Kartosudiro and Sukirah. However, POP alleged then that Suharto was the illegitimate child of Raden Rio Padmodipuro, a descendent of Sultan Hamengku Buwono II. When he was six, Suharto and his mother were exiled to Kertorejo village because his father wanted to remarry. Incensed by the article, Suharto ordered the magazine closed down and its managing editor, Rey Hanintyo, to be thrown in prison.

    Jokowi need not worry. In an era where the media is infested with hoaxes and falsehoods, the public can judge for themselves the true quality of the highly tendentious book written solely based on hearsay and rumors. Likewise, knowing that this is stale news, the police should not make a big deal out of it because it would only aggravate it further. The allegations that Jokowi was a child of a PKI leader have been floating in the Internet since the 2014 presidential elections. Overreaction can often be counterproductive. 

    The police have charged Bambang with Article 16 of Law No. 40/2008 on spreading hate speech and racial and ethnic discrimination. He has also been charged for violating Article 207 of the criminal code for slandering authorities.

    Criminal charges may be needed for Bambang, a news clipping master with a penchant for dubious news and Internet chats. But the police should not go overboard by chasing after people buying the book and questioning their motives. In a democracy, it is still better to fight a book with a book. (*)

    Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine