Indonesia Crunch | Law as a weapon

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A recent case in Indonesia made me really doubt the sanity of the justice system.

It involved the so-called UU ITE — the Electronic Information and Transaction Law. This law is meant to help regulate what goes online. For example, it forbids sharing/downloading pornography.

The highest court of the country — the Supreme Court — decided to sentence a teacher, Baiq Nuril Maknun to six months’ imprisonment and a fine on charges of ‘violating decency’.

Her crime? She recorded phone calls in which the school principal made sexually explicit comments towards her. She recorded these calls and shared them with a colleague who shared them with school staff and the head of the local education agency. That she should be punished for collecting evidence against the person who committed the sexual harassment seems wrong on so many levels. Even if what she recorded is “violating decency”, as the judges say, she didn’t even share it herself. It was her colleague.

How did the court arrive at this decision? If the media reports that go a bit deeper on this are to be believed, in the end, it came down to the question of who plugged a cable into a computer. Baiq Nuril Maknun had the recording on her phone, attached it to her colleague’s computer, and this, the judges argue, is where the “sharing” began. That’s some truly Kafkaesque technocratic interpretation of the law. It’s infuriating.

Of course, I’m not alone in this, and there’s a large support network trying to help Baiq Nuril Maknun, but the way this whole case was handled just shows how much of a gap there can be between what feels just and what’s decided by the courts. And what a way to discourage anyone from daring to collect evidence against a sexual harasser.

Around the web in Indonesia:

  • There’s so much fun stuff on Twitter from the daily ups and downs in the life of a Go-Jek (on-demand driver) in Indonesia. This guy got tasked to transport live geese from one place to the other.
  • Getting Go-Jek drivers on your side now has a political dimension too. Prabowo, the Jokowi challenger in the upcoming election, came out saying that he is sad to see so many people end up as Go-Jek drivers. Jokowi, on the other hand, said he sees this as a noble task. Interesting how the different candidates frame their position.

Listening Recommendations:

Two audio recommendations this week, both from the Supchina podcast!

  • The episode on shadow banking in China was brilliant and parts of it are applicable to Indonesia where there’s also a huge informal lending sector.
  • The second one is called Mythbusting China’s social credit system, or rather the many credit systems that co-exist. This one is so interesting if you’re curious about the diverging perceptions on the purpose of this system/these systems in ‘the West’ versus China.


  • The one tech story/series of stories everyone’s reading this week is surely about CRISPR babies. Apparently, Chinese scientists are creating gene-edited babies, which, if successful, would be a breakthrough. It’s mostly ethical considerations holding this kind of thing back (for good reason). But I think it’s still too early in the new cycle to really understand what’s going on.

Nadine Freischlad is a Jakarta-based journalist, writing about technology, business, culture, and other things. Follow her on Twitter @texastee 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the columnist and do not represent DEALSTREETASIA.