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Indonesia jails Christian activist over social media post

UCA News - April 5, 2024

An Indonesian court has jailed an activist for a social media post criticizing illegal shrimp farming at a protected national park under a sweeping law criticized by advocacy groups.

The Jepara District Court in Central Java province sentenced Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan to seven months in prison in a trial marked by protests by his supporters on April 4.

The judges said Tangkilisan incited hatred towards certain groups based on their ethnicity, religion, and race under the Law on Electronic and Information Transaction.

In a February social media post, Tangkilisan used the term "shrimp brain community" to criticize illegal intensive shrimp farming in Karimunjawa, a protected national park in northeastern Jepara Regency.

He compared "our places of worship as Muslims to the shrimp itself," said the attorney of the plaintiff, Noorkhan, who goes by one name.

Tangkilisan's supporters admitted that his Christian faith was involved in the case, though his religion had nothing to do with "his environmental struggles."

Tangkilisan was also fined, subsidiary to one month's imprisonment. Rapin Mudiarjo, Tangkilisan's attorney, blamed the judges, and said they "closed their conscience."

He said the judges should have applied the clauses of the Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, which guarantees legal protection to the public in their fight for a healthy environment.

This is a matter of environmental law enforcement, Mudiarjo said, and added, "Karimunjawa is a place we must protect."

Sekar Banjaran Aji, another of Tangkilisan's attorneys, asked the judges to grill the police who handled the case.

Nenden Sekar Arum, executive director of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), said silencing online expression was "dangerous for democracy in Indonesia."

"People who are critical of the nation's problems are easily criminalized," she said.

Enacted in 2008, the Law on Electronic Information and Transaction was aimed at protecting consumers, internet users, and intellectual copyright. But over the years, the law has systematically "hindered the fundamental right to freedom of expression," according to human rights activists.

Arum added the law "is an effective tool to suppress freedom of speech."

The court ruling came amidst pressure from national and international organizations to free Tangkilisan.

Valens Dulmin, an activist from the Franciscan Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, told UCA News that the verdict showed there were efforts to silence environmental activists.

On April 3, some 30 organizations, including Switzerland-based Church-affiliated group Franciscan International, CIVICUS, and SAFEnet sought Tangkilisan's release.

Tangkilisan, a former lecturer at a university in Central Java, has been campaigning against illegal shrimp farming. It was a supporter of shrimp farmers who filed a lawsuit against Tangkilisan.

Bambang Zakaria, coordinator of the Karimunjawa Fighting Circle, said there are at least 33 illegal shrimp farms in Karimunjawa with no wastewater management.

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesia-jails-christian-activist-over-social-media-post/10467