The Indonesian government has the power to arrest those who use “offensive” internet memes, according to recent restrictions against freedom of speech.
After citizens of the country called for the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law to be revoked, more restrictions have allegedly been added, including sanctions against people who post “texts, pictures, videos and memes deemed to incite fear or cause embarrassment.”
“The crime, referred to as cyberbullying, poses a threat to freedom on the internet, as it is common for people to tell jokes and post memes criticizing public officials implicated in graft cases or political dynasty members ahead of a regional or general election,” wrote the Jakarta Post last month. “The House claims that the passed provision not only aims to ‘protect children’ but also the general public from bullying on the internet.”
The Jakarta Post also states that since the Electronic Information and Transactions Law was introduced in 2008, numerous innocent people have been imprisoned or sued, including Prita Mulyasari, who was jailed after complaining about a hospital’s service during an email chain.
Around 200 people have been prosecuted since the law was implemented in 2008 and can receive up to 12 years in prison.
“The government has yet to reach a consensus on the definition of ‘annoying’ [bullying], so why are they moving to regulate charges for it?” said the director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, Supriyadi Eddyono. “This new charge, in addition to the existing defamation one clearly tells us that the revision of the ITE Law poses serious threats to freedom of expression in Indonesia.”