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AJI condemns lawsuit against senior journalist for criticizing minister's policy online

Jakarta Post - May 30, 2020

Budi Sutrisno, Jakarta – The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has spoken out against a police report filed by an Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) politician against senior journalist Farid Gaban for criticizing a minister's recent policy, saying it is "against the right of expression."

PSI politician Muannas Alaidid reported Farid to the Jakarta Police on Wednesday, accusing the latter of spreading false and misleading news through social media.

The allegation was made against Farid's criticism of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Teten Masduki's recent move to cooperate with e-marketplace Blibli.com in a program called the KUMKM Hub.

"People help the people; the rulers help entrepreneurs. How about this, Kang Teten Masduki? How low can you go?" Farid tweeted through his account, @faridgaban, on May 21, along with a picture of an announcement for the program's launch.

The KUMKM Hub is the ministry's initiative launched on May 20 to help cooperatives and SMEs market their products amid the COVID-19 outbreak with the use of digitalized channels provided on e-commerce platforms.

Farid later elaborated on his criticism, arguing that cooperation with the private sector in a government program was inappropriate and would harm state interests, while the ministry should have the capacity to develop its own digital marketplace.

Muannas argued that Farid's statements did not reflect the actual situation and would mislead people. He said such statements would only give an impression that the government only cared about businesspeople rather than the people.

On Monday, Farid tweeted that he had received a legal notice from Muannas, saying the politician would report him to the police if Farid refused to delete his criticism.

Separately, Minister Teten said the ministry had realized from the outset that there was a need to cooperate as widely as possible since the government could not work alone. However, he said that he accepted any criticism, including that from Farid, as reported by local media outlets.

AJI argued what Farid did was a form of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. It also said that was Farid said was still within the limits of expressing an opinion.

"[We] urge Muannas Alaidid to retract his report against Farid Gaban," AJI said in a statement on Thursday. "[We] urge the police not to proceed further with the report."

AJI also questioned why a report was filed when the person being criticized apparently did not mind such criticism.

The alliance also urged PSI to conduct internal examination regarding the police report, saying the party had an obligation to encourage its members to face criticism and respect differences.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/30/aji-condemns-lawsuit-against-senior-journalist-for-criticizing-ministers-policy-online.html