APSN Banner

Rights groups slam prison time for environmental activist over Facebook post

CNN Indonesia - April 4, 2024

Jakarta – Civil society activist organisations have condemned the guilty verdict handed down by the Jepara District Court in Central Java on Thursday April 4 against Karimunjawa environmental activist Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan who was indicted under the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law.

Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said Tangkilisan's sentence was clear evidence that the criminalisation of environmental defenders who fight for the public interest still continues and their protection is still very minimal.

"As an environmental activist, Daniel has pursued efforts to protect the environment from continuous damage in the Karimunjawa Islands through video documentation he uploaded to social media Facebook", said Hamid in a statement by Amnesty International Indonesia on Thursday.

"Daniel's response to the reaction to his video was not a form of hatred or hostility, as stated by the panel of judges, but rather criticism and a call to action to overcome the serious problem of environmental pollution that threatens the survival of all of us", he added.

Furthermore, Hamid said that the guilty verdict by the Jepara District Court showed that the ITE Law is a threat to freedom of expression and a tool to silence activists who voiced irregularities.

"Various regulations in Indonesia, including Law Number 32/2009 on Environmental Protection and Management, provide guidelines for the justice system not to criminalise environmental fighters. However, Daniel was still criminalised under the Information and Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE)."

"This shows that the UU ITE, even though it has been revised twice, not only threatens freedom of expression, but is also used to silence human rights defenders, including environmental activists, who are trying to prevent ecological damage."

Earlier, the Jepara District Court panel of judges stated that Tangkilisan, who is a Karimunjawa environmental activist, had been found guilty under the ITE Law, namely causing feelings of hatred or hostility towards certain individuals and/or community groups based on ethnic, religion, race, inter-group inspired conflicts (SARA). He was sentenced to seven months in prison.

Not only that, Tangkilisan's cellphone and Facebook account were confiscated and destroyed.

On December 7, 2023, Tangkilisan was detained by Jepara district police (Polres) after being reported by residents on charges of hate speech related to a video that he uploaded to his Facebook account on November 12, 2022. The 6-mininute video shows the condition of the Karimunjawa coast which is beloved to have been affected by shrimp pond waste.

The upload received a variety of comments. Responding to the comments, Tangkilisan wrote: "The brain shrimp community enjoys eating free shrimp while being eaten by the fishpond farmers. In essence, the brain shrimp community is like shrimp livestock itself. Delicious to eat, in large quantities & regularly for food".

Similar to Amnesty International, the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) also criticised the verdict against Tangkilisan.

"With this verdict, the judges underlined the use of the phrase 'shrimp brain community' to prove hate speech. Yet the community in the comment written by Daniel Tangkilisan did not refer to a specific community, so it can be interpreted broadly", said ELSAM in an official statement received Thursday afternoon.

There are three main points in ELSAM's response criticising the verdict against the Karimunjawa environmental activist.

First, the judge mistakenly analysed the element of 'causing hatred or enmity'. ELSAM said there are two pro-camps, namely tourism actors who encourage environmental preservation, and a con-group, namely those from shrimp farming actors.

Based on ELSAM's investigation, the 75 residents who signed reports against Tangkilisan for his comments on social media were those who worked on the shrimp ponds.

"Therefore, it is wrong if the judge saw that the statement 'shrimp brain community' as offending the people of Karimunjawa as a whole, because the only people who were offended were those involved in the shrimp farming industry", said ELSAM.

Second, there was a simplification by the judges of the meaning of the phrase "shrimp brain society". And, the three judges ignored the Anti-SLAPP or strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation provisions.

Responding to these irregularities, ELSAM is urging the Judicial Commission (KY) to immediately examine the three judges who heard Tangkilisan's case, especially because there were irregularities from the start in pushing through the use articles whose formulation has already been revised, errors in the interpretation of the hate speech articles, as well as allegations of a connection with this decision and the shrimp farming industry which pollutes the Karimunjawa environment.

"[We urge] the Supreme Court to pay serious attention to the handling of cases with an information technology and communication dimension, to ensure the appropriateness of the application of the law in each case that is handled. (tim/kid)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Organisasi Sipil Kecam Vonis PN Jepara atas Daniel Aktivis Karimunjawa".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20240404152248-12-1082871/organisasi-sipil-kecam-vonis-pn-jepara-atas-daniel-aktivis-karimunjaw