Nina A. Loasana, Jakarta – Denpasar district court in Bali has sentenced musician I Gede Ari Astina, who goes by the stage name Jerinx, to 14 months in prison after finding him guilty of spreading hate speech against the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) through his social media account.
"We declare defendant I Gede Ari Astina aka Jerinx guilty of committing a crime, as he intentionally and erroneously spread information that aimed to incite hatred or hostility against a certain group of people," said presiding judge Ida Ayu Adnya on Wednesday.
"[The court] sentences the defendant to one year and two months in jail and a fine of Rp 10 million [US$706] or an extra one month's imprisonment," she further stated.
The sentence was lighter than the prosecutors' demand for a three-year prison sentence. Jerinx's lawyer, Wayan Suardana, said they had not yet decided whether to file an appeal.
"We need to discuss this matter with Jerinx, we have seven days to decide," he said as quoted by tempo.co.
The drummer of Bali-based punk rock band Superman Is Dead, Jerinx is known as an activist and also endorser of various coronavirus conspiracy theories. He had previously participated in a rally in protest at COVID-19 test requirements for travel to Bali.
The IDI's Bali chapter reported Jerinx to the police on June 16 after the musician accused the association of being "flunkeys" of the World Health Organization in relation to requirements mandating COVID-19 test requirements for expectant mothers who were about to give birth, through a post on his Instagram account.Legal campaign group Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) questioned the court's decision that found Jerinx guilty of violating Article 28 of the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, which bans the spread of information aimed at fueling hatred based on ethnicity, religion or race.
"It's too much to include the IDI, which is a professional association, as a 'societal group' protected under Article 28," said ICJR executive director Erasmus Napitupulu in a statement.
"Besides, [Jerinx] criticized the IDI as an organization and not doctors in general. This verdict poses a threat to democracy in Indonesia as the judges have raised a specific profession to the same position as a race, tribal group or religion, which would allow every professional association to report someone for committing a hate crime against their professions," he said.
Critics have long argued that the ITE law is draconian in nature as it is often used to criminalize people and undermines the right to freedom of expression.
Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) data revealed that 24 people were charged under the law in 2019, and 25 in the previous year, with journalists and media workers being the most common victims of criminalization.
"One media company and seven journalists became victims [of the ITE Law] in 2019," SAFEnet executive director Damar Juniarto said, adding that the people were charged using "elastic clauses" in the law that could lead to multiple interpretations and was regularly used to silence critics.