A frightening trend of online targeting and cyber-bullying of individuals for their personal views amid tense freedom of expression tests in Indonesia has prompted one organisation to warn users while calling for a strong community response.
Damar Juniarto, the Regional Coordinator of Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) which promotes freedoms around the region, said the persecution could be seen as ‘people hunting.’
“Beware of the ongoing ‘people hunting’ action, which is conducted by a certain group targeting other people,” he said via his Twitter account, @DamarJuniarto, on Thursday, May 1.
Damar said the phenomenon of ‘people hunting’ has markedly increased recently, all being accused of violating blasphemy or the controversial Information and Technology laws. SAFEnet investigations found 55 cases spread across the country beginning in late January.
He pointed to cases in Jakarta and Tangerang, as well as Solok in West Sumatra, Cimahi, near Bandung in West Java, the Banten coastal town of Cilegon, East Kalimantan’s Tenggarong and Balikpapan and North Sumatran capital Medan.
Persecution of individuals has emerged since former Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama was arrested and then jailed for blasphemy earlier this year.
“Whether someone’s just commenting on clerical figures, or even making a provocative post, they will instantly be targeted for sweeping immediately,” he said.
The ‘sweeps’ are performed systematically by online mobs, Damar said. Initially, ‘hunters’ will track targets online before instructing the mobs to harass the targets. They will then force the target to apologise for their views while they are photographed or recorded. Finally, the ‘hunters’ will agitate for criminal prosecution.
Damar called on the wider community to come together to overcome bullying and persecution.
“While we encourage the police and the Communications and Informatics Department to take action against perpetrators, everyone needs to be very careful of this,” Damar said.