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Comedian refutes drug abuse allegation amid concerns over 'threats to democracy'

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2020

Nina A. Loasana, Jakarta – Comedian Bintang Emon has refuted drug abuse accusations leveled against him as experts raised concerns over Indonesia's democracy and freedom of expression following his viral video that poked fun at the controversial light sentence handed down against two policemen behind the acid attack on graft buster Novel Baswedan.

Emon posted his drug test results on his Instagram account @bintangemon on Tuesday, revealing that the test taken at Pondok Indah Hospital in Puri Indah, West Jakarta came back negative.

The test came following a series of tweets by anonymous accounts alleging that the stand-up comedian was a methamphetamine addict. The tweets quickly went viral, causing the hashtag #bintangemon to trend, with more than 270,000 tweets on Monday.

The attacks were allegedly conducted by "buzzers" following Emon's video that had gone viral on social media. In the video posted on his Twitter account, Emon highlighted the prosecutors' insistence that the defendants in Novel's case – Chief Brig. Ronny Bugis and Brig. Rahmat Kadir – had "accidentally" thrown sulfuric acid at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator's face in April 2017.

He also questioned the one-year sentence demanded by the prosecutors for the defendants.

Besides the damaging tweets, Emon also claimed that he and his management team had been receiving anonymous emails.

"Somebody started to harass my business email account, my brother's accounts and my manager's account. But I am still relaxed, calm," he tweeted on Sunday.

Ismail Fahmi, analyst and founder of big data consulting company Drone Empirit, said based on his research, the false accusation was initiated by three Twitter accounts, @LintangHanita @Tiara616xxx, and @LiarAngsa on Sunday. All of the accounts have fewer than 10 followers.

"All the accounts posted five similar tweets at exactly the same time around 10:45 p.m. to 10:49 p.m. [on Sunday]," Fahmi said via his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Ketiga akun itu adalah: @LintangHanita (2 followers), @Tiara616xxx (9 followers), dan @LiarAngsa (0 followers).

Ketika masing-masing diexplore, semua menampilkan 5 postingan yang sama persis dan jam yang sama, antara 22:45 sd 22:49 WIB. – Ismail Fahmi (@ismailfahmi) June 15, 2020

Fahmi said the organized tweet attacks quickly went viral because many famous twitter accounts quickly responded to the tweets. As of Tuesday, Fahmi said all of the three accounts had been suspended so it would be hard to trace their history and affiliations.

Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network's (SAFEnet) head of digital at-risks subdivision, Ellen Kusuma, said the online attacks against Emon followed a similar pattern to recent attacks against activists holding online discussions on #Papuanlivesmatter.

"These attacks are an effort to delegitimize the activists' expressions by leading public opinion. This is not the first case and this won't be the last," Ellen told tempo.co on Sunday.

Director of Jakarta-based Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), Muhammad Afif, also expressed similar concern over online attacks against Emon, claiming these trends could lead the country's democracy into an authoritarian phase.

"At this point, the country needs to protect citizens when they are expressing their opinions. By staying silent, the government has shown that it has no strong commitment to protecting our freedom of expression," Afif said.

"I, hereby, urge the government to investigate who is behind these attacks," he added. (nal)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/06/16/comedian-refutes-drug-abuse-allegation-amid-concerns-over-threats-to-democracy.html