Blasphemy charge over statue meme shows ITE Law can target anyone: SAFENet

Source – August 9, 2022
Screen shot of Suryo's meme of Buddhist statue edited to resemble Widodo's face – June 14, 2022 (Twitter)

Ardito Ramadhan, Jakarta – Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFENet) freedom of expression division head Nenden Sekar Arum is of the view that the stupa meme case which has ensnared telematics expert and former Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Roy Suryo is evidence that the catchall articles under Law Number 19/2016 on Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) can target anyone.

"This is evidence that these rubber articles can target anyone. So whether you're a lawmaker, a housewife selling vegetables in the market, you can very easily be subject to the ITE Law", said Sekar during a Gaspol event on Tuesday August 9.

Sekar also highlighted Article 28 Paragraph (2) of the ITE Law under which Suryo is being charged because the meme has been deemed to be hate speech related to the ethnicity, race, religion and inter-group conflicts (SARA).

Yet, according to Sekar, the government through the guidelines on the implementation of the ITE Law has already limited what issues can be regarded as religious blasphemy or hate speech.

"There it explains that what is meant by hate speech is when there is an attempt to incite or provoke people to injure a group or a member of a certain SARA", he said.

Because of this he believes that law enforcement officials must closely reflect upon whether or not the meme uploaded by Suryo actually incited other people to hate a certain religion.

"If there is incitement, then that can most certainly be subject to Article 28 Paragraph (2)", said Sekar.

Suryo has been charged under Article 28 Paragraph (2) in conjunction with Article 45 of the ITE Law. Police investigators have also charged Suryo under Article 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy and Article 15 of Law Number 1/1946 on Criminal Regulations.

He was reported to police for uploading a picture meme of a statue at the Borobudur Buddhist temple complex in Central Java in which the statue's face had been edited to become the face of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, along with text implying that high price of tickets to visit Borobudur is to pay for the new capital city project in East Kalimantan.

Suryo has been deemed to have demeaned and insulted and the statue of the Buddha because he reuploaded the picture accompanied by the words "funny" and "brokenhearted".

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kasus Meme Stupa Roy Suryo, SAFEnet: Bukti Pasal Karet UU ITE Bisa Menyasar Siapa Saja".]