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In Indonesia, netizens face intimidation from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)

Workers watch a TV broadcast of a press conference by the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, Rizieq Shihab, in Jakarta, Indonesia, 28 November 2016
Workers watch a TV broadcast of a press conference by the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, Rizieq Shihab, in Jakarta, Indonesia, 28 November 2016

AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

This statement was originally published on aji.or.id on 29 May 2017.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) strongly condemns all forms of intimidation, violence, and restriction of freedom of expression which has recently been frequently perpetrated by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Members of FPI visited the personal residences of media users accused of publishing derogatory posts against Rizieq Shihab, the organization's grand mufti. By forcing the social media users to issue a public apology under threat of a criminal lawsuit, FPI perpetrated acts of terror which should not have been allowed to take place.

As has been widely reported, FPI intimidation claimed a number of targets in the past two weeks. On Sunday, May 21, 2017 dozens of FPI members went to see Indrie Sorayya, 38, a businesswoman from Tangerang, Banten, to protest a Facebook post she published where she had allegedly offended Rizieq Shihab. A similar form of intimidation has also been perpetrated against Fiera Lovita, 40, a female doctor in Solok, West Sumatra.

According to SAFEnet, a network of supporters of freedom of expression in Southeast Asia, their tracking revealed that at least 48 individuals across Indonesia are currently under threat of being hunted down, terrorized, and silenced by these patterns of violence.

Vigilante acts perpetrated by FPI are a threat to the protection of human rights guaranteed by Article 28 (E) of the 1945 Indonesian constitution. The article states that every person has the right to freely associate, assemble, and express opinions.

In addition, intimidation and threats to social media users are a violation of the 2005 Law No. 12 which is the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The covenant requires the State to guarantee the protection of its citizens' civil and political rights.

Therefore the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) issues the following statement:
1. AJI strongly condemns the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) for encouraging, or at least allowing its members to hunt down citizens for exercising their right to express their opinion on social media. Objection against a person's opinion should have been expressed in an opposing statement to create a healthy civil discourse in public space, including via social media.
2. AJI urges the state, in this case the Indonesian Police, to protect the right of Indonesian citizens to freedom of expression on every domain, including digital media.
3. AJI criticizes the police for allowing intimidation and threats against freedom of expression, even facilitating the prosecution of citizens posting on social media with the Information and Electronic Transaction Act. This should not have been allowed as it will only serve to perpetuate the public fear of free and open expression of opinions.
4. AJI calls for everyone's active participation in safeguarding the civil and political liberty that the nation had enjoyed since the May 1998 reform. Support may be expressed in solidarity for victims of social media intimidation or by directly pressuring the government to consistently protect the civil and political rights of Indonesian citizens. Do not let anyone rob us of our rights and freedom.

Jakarta, May 29, 2017

Suwarjono, Chairman
Arfi Bambani, General Secretary

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