The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) condemned the hacking and disinformation attacks against AJI Chairperson Sasmito Madrim. AJI believes that such tactics should be regarded as an assault against AJI as an organization and its activists in their fight for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
On February 23, 2022, around 6.15 PM (Western Indonesia Time), an unknown party simultaneously hacked the WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook accounts and the personal mobile number of Sasmito. His Whatsapp account was the first to be hacked when the instant messaging application notified Sasmito on his mobile phone that his number had been registered to another device.
Around 7 PM, the hack had spread to his Instagram and Facebook accounts. The hacker then deleted all of his Instagram posts before uploading Sasmito's personal contact information. Meanwhile, on Facebook, Sasmito's profile picture was changed to a pornographic image. Afterward, his mobile number could no longer receive calls and SMS messages.
AJI's internal digital safety team has made efforts to restore those accounts and has successfully recovered Sasmito's Facebook account. Meanwhile, the recovery process of his Instagram and Whatsapp accounts is still ongoing.
On February 24, 2022, AJI Indonesia noticed disinformation attacks brandishing Sasmito's name and photo on social media with the following narratives:
1. Sasmito supported the government to disband the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
2. Sasmito supported the government in constructing the Bener Dam in Purworejo, Central Java.
3. Sasmito called for the National Police (Polri) to arrest human rights activists Haris Azhar and Fatia.
On behalf of Sasmito, AJI Indonesia would like to state the following: that AJI Chairperson Sasmito Madrim never issued any of the statements above and that they are all fake. AJI Indonesia is an organization that supports and fights for freedom of association and speech, freedom of expression, and people's right to information.
The three disinformation posts were trying to pit AJI Indonesia against other civil society organizations. Including the people of Wadas, who are currently fighting the forces behind the natural resource exploitation in their village.
Regarding the attacks on Sasmito, AJI Indonesia states the following:
1. The hacks and disinformation attacks against AJI Chairperson Sasmito Madrim are an act of terror against activists fighting for freedom of expression and democracy.
2. Requesting the public reject the disinformation narratives spreading on social media.
3. Requesting the public support AJI Indonesia in fighting for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, association, speech, and right to information.
Jakarta, February 24, 2022
AJI Indonesia Secretary-General
Head of Advocacy Division
[This statement was originally published on aji.or.id on 25 February 2022.]