Activist facing jail for defamation says prison terms won't stop public criticism

CNN Indonesia – November 22, 2023
Fatia Maulidyanti (left) and Haris Azhar during hearing at East Jakarta District Court – Undated (CNN)

Jakarta – Human rights activists and Lokataru Human Rights Foundation director Haris Azhar has emphasised that criminal penalties will not stop the public from criticising unethical practices by the state.

Although he admits that there is no freedom that is absolute, Azhar said that state officials cannot also be allowed to be absolutely free from criticism.

Azhar believes that the four year prison sentence demanded by the prosecutor in a defamation case brought against him by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan is an act of state repression.

"In my opinion the legal process directed at me, and then there is a demand for four years, in my opinion is a continuing episode of the practice of state repression against a citizen", said Azhar at a University of Indonesia (UI) Business and Economics Faculty Student Executive Council (BEM) seminar in Depok, West Java, on Wednesday November 22.

Furthermore, Azhar also hopes that the judges will acquit him and his college, former Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti, who is also facing the same indictment.

Azhar explained the use of the name Lord Luhut in a video uploaded on his YouTube account was an example of freedom of expression that was not wrong. Likewise with Maulidiyanti's statement on Pandjaitan's role in mining businesses in Papua.

"The evidence [presented] in the trial is also very week, and does not meet the logical requirements. Fatia and I cannot be prosecuted", he said.

At an earlier hearing at the East Jakarta District Court on November 4, the public prosecutor demanded that Azhar be sentenced to four years in prison and fined 1 million rupiah or serve an addition six months imprisonment in a defamation case brought by Pandjaitan.

The prosecutor said that Azhar had been legally and convincingly proven guilty of defamation according to the law.

For his actions, Azhar is deemed to have violated Article 27 Paragraph 3 in conjunction with Article 45 Paragraph 3 of the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law in conjunction with Article 55 Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code (KUHP). (lna/dal)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Hariz Azhar Ungkap Hukuman Pidana Tak Bisa Hentikan Kritik Publik".]