Support for former Jakarta governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama continues after he announced he will not appeal a two-year jail sentence after being found guilty of blasphemy, but activists warn the so-called Ahok effect has taken over the country with individuals targeted by groups for their views.
Damar Juniarto, the Regional Coordinator of SAFEnet, an organisation promoting freedom of expression across Southeast Asia, noted acts of persecution are spreading throughout Indonesia.
“This issue needs to be considered as a serious concern because the threat level is real,” he said in a statement issued Saturday, May 27.
The arrest of Ahok under blasphemy laws ushered in a dramatic increase of reports under the controversial Information and Electronic Transaction laws (UU ITE), particularly targeting social media posts which are reported to have blasphemous material.
Juniarto said persecution takes shape in a number of ways, including finding personal information, such as where a user lives or works, to harass posters or see them charged under UU ITE.
“We are afraid if this keeps up. Chances are, it will be a serious threat to democracy,” Juniarto said.
SAFEnet’s network of volunteers has urged the Indonesian government to enforce freedom of expression laws and prevent further persecution on social media.
“The government must give the right protection towards everyone who is targeted for the persecution of Ahok Effect. Everyone has to be guaranteed that the government will protect them by the presumption principle of innocence and is protected from any threats that might put their lives in danger,” Juniarto said.