Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Surabaya, East Java – Zikria Dzatil – a homemaker and mother of three in Bogor, West Java – had not thought much of a Facebook status she casually posted almost a month ago, in which she lobbed an ad hominem at Tri "Risma" Rismaharini, the mayor of Surabaya in East Java.
That was at least until the post came back to haunt her in recent weeks as it had attracted the attention of fellow social media users and subsequently – albeit not too surprisingly – the Surabaya Police.
The police arrested Zikria at her home on Friday last week, charging her with defamation for allegedly posting derogatory remarks about Risma, in which she called the mayor "kodok betina" (female frog) alongside a photo of Risma sitting at what appeared to be the side of a river.
Surabaya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Sandi Nugroho said during a press conference on Monday that Zikria acknowledged that she had posted such remarks during questioning.
The arrest was made based on a report submitted by the Surabaya administration, he said. Zikria's now-deactivated Facebook page, along with a screenshot of the controversial post, was reported to the police on Jan. 21, he added.
The police questioned nine witnesses prior to the arrest and considered input from experts on linguistics and the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, Sandi said.
"I apologize profusely, Bunda Risma. Please forgive me for what I have done," Zikria said during Monday's press conference at the Surabaya Police headquarters.
She went on to say that she and her children had received death threats and experienced various forms of cyberbullying in the wake of the controversy surrounding her post.
"I'm just an ordinary housewife who has had to experience constant fear as my children were threatened, terrorized. I myself was also bullied. This was a hard lesson for me. Once again, I sincerely apologize, Bunda Risma," Zikria said as she broke down in tears.
Surabaya Police's general crimes unit head, Adj. Sr. Comr. Sudamiran, said Zikria was a vocal supporter of Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and that she had reportedly taken offense to a slew of sharp criticism levied against the governor following widespread flooding that hit the nation's capital on Jan. 1.
Although Zikria did not live in Jakarta, she said that she was hurt by negative remarks about Anies and felt the need to "bite back" at another official, he said.
"The perpetrator was simply hurt because Anies faced criticism," Sudamiran said, while calling on the public to use social media platforms wisely.
Zikria's case is the latest in a string of defamation charges based on the contentious ITE Law, which activists say is especially prone to being abused by those in power to silence critics.
Previously, West Nusa Tenggara native Baiq Nuril Makmun was sentenced to six months in prison and fined Rp 500 million (US$33,749) after the Supreme Court found her guilty of defaming her alleged harasser, the principal of a school where she worked in 2018.
House of Representatives Commission III called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to grant Baiq Nuril amnesty last year, which Jokowi subsequently issued.
In 2014, Ervani Emy Handayani was sued for defamation after she posted disparaging comments on Facebook about her husband's work supervisor. The Bantul District Court in Central Java eventually exonerated Ervani as the judges agreed that she had been "clouded by emotions when making her statement". (rfa)