In a move that may have something to do with the upcoming election, President Joko Widodo took to social media today to urge Indonesians to use common sense and stop sharing hoaxes and fake news online.
With an illustrated image of a raised fist crumpling a piece of paper that says "hoax" posted on his Instagram account, Jokowi mentioned several fake news stories that have caught his attention recently, some of which seemed to pertain to his and his party's political interests.
The first item Jokowi listed was how the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) – the highest clerical body in Indonesia whose chairman, Ma'ruf Amin, is Jokowi's running mate – was supposedly asked to make babi panggang (grilled pork) halal for consumption by the country's Muslims. This was in reference to a hoax that recently spread online alleging that Jokowi's party, PDI-P, had demanded that pork be certified halal because the party is anti-Muslim.
Another hoax Jokowi listed was how his administration was going to legalize LGBT and abortion. This was likely in reference to conservative groups and politicians perpetuating fake news stories to prevent the passage of the much-needed sexual violence bill (RUU PKS). Those who oppose giving adequate legal protections for victims of gender-based violence, such as "King of Dangdut" Rhoma Irama, have been spreading falsehoods such as the bill would legalize LGBT relations (it's not illegal) and abortion (which is only legal in special circumstances but is not even mentioned in RUU PKS).
Regarding these hoaxes, Jokowi wrote, "These news stories arrive at our hands via the internet, social media and group chats all the time. Among those, many are about me personally. For example, that my real name is supposedly Herbertus Handoko Joko Widodo bin Oei Hiong Liong," referring to one of the many instances that the president has been accused of secretly being Chinese and/or a pawn for China and/or a member of the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
Jokowi went on to call on Indonesians to exercise good judgment and a healthy conscience by verifying stories they see online before sharing them.
While Jokowi's public service announcement is quite apt during these murky times, it's good to see that he didn't use forceful warnings to convey this particular message. The same can't be said about one of his senior ministers and advisors, Wiranto, who suggested recently that election hoax spreaders should be charged with violation of the country's anti-terrorism law, which only strengthened Jokowi's administration's increasingly authoritarian reputation (thankfully the idea was discarded after it was heavily criticized).