INDONESIA: The Indictment of Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti Denounces the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion

The trial process of Ms. Fatia Maulidiyanti, a Coordinator of the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence / KontraS 2020-2023 and Mr. Haris Azhar,the Founder of the Lokataru Foundation, finally entered the stage of reading the prosecution by the Public Prosecutor (Jaksa Penuntut Umum/JPU). However, before the Prosecutor submitted the prosecution, the legal team of Fatia and Haris also submitted documentary evidence which we had presented previously in the process of examining witnesses and experts. This documentary evidence aims to strengthen the evidence that Fatia and Haris are innocent and must be declared free from all charges.

In the opening of the prosecution letter, the Prosecutor was very tendentious in stating to stop using human rights (National Commission on Human Rights/Komnas HAM), anti-corruption and environmental issues in the Papua as an excuse to escape from criminal responsibility. Apart from that, we also highlighted the Prosecutor’s narrative that attacks the way that the legal counsel and the audience are perceived as making a fuss. This is very problematic because the Prosecutor does not just drop it. It however undermined the sense of solidarity that had built up in them between civil society groups.

The Prosecutor also created an issue of the witness and expert evidence session because they thought that it was not objective and not based on the oath. These allegations are serious, as well as dubious. The capacity of the witnesses and experts that we present, this also is an allegation that the witnesses’ statements and the experts that we present are manipulative and that they lie. In fact, the attitude of the witnesses and experts those we have presented so far have been very cooperative and they answered all the questions. The questions that were not answered were responses from our witnesses and experts to stupid and unnecessary questions asked by the Prosecutor.

In our opinion, the prosecution letter presented by the Prosecutor is dismissive of the evidentiary process at the trial. The Prosecutor did not mention the issue at all about the freedom of expression, the conflicts of interest of the officials and the anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) narrative that has been submitted during the evidentiary process at the trial. The Prosecutor also ignored the facts of the podcast based on research in the form of a rapid study of the civil society.

The prosecution letter increasingly emphasised that the Prosecutor is really defending Mr. Luhut’s interests, and not the public’s interests. The Prosecutor said that Mr. Luhut is not involved in mining practices in Papua at all. Whereas, in the process of proving the witness presented by the Prosecutor himself, namely Mr. Paulus Prananto admitted that the company owned by Luhut had explored business deals mining in Intan Jaya with West Wits Mining and PT Qurrota Madinah Ain.

As human rights defenders, the Prosecutor stated in the prosecution letter that labelling a human rights defender is not a justification for the actions taken by Fatia and Haris. The Prosecutor actually directed that Mr. Luhut’s rights, dignity and good name are the ones violated by Mr. Haris and Ms. Fatia. This paradigm is again wrong, because of the criticism that it conveys on these two human rights defenders in Luhut’s capacity as a public official, not an individual. The Prosecutor’s argument about insulting public officials once again confirms his bias of the Prosecutor in prosecuting this case. As stated in the joint decree, the Minister of Communication and Information, the Attorney General and the National Police Chief stated that the victim was the reporter who is an individual with a specific identity and not a profession, institution, corporation and position.

Furthermore, in the prosecution letter, the Public Prosecutor also raised an argument about the boundaries between criticism and humiliation. In the letter, the Prosecutor quoted several experts, who stated that criticism should be delivered politely and constructively. The legal team does believe that what Fatia and Haris did was purely guaranteed public criticism and not insulting in a democratic country.

We consider the contents of the indictment to be more about ‘Luhut’, because on several occasions it mentions Luhut’s offended feelings, tarnished good name and inner attitude. This is very excessive if you look at Luhut’s track record as a former military general who had a decades-long career in military institutions. Things what the Prosecutor read regarding Luhut’s feelings were exaggerated and seemed eager to ensnare Fatia and Haris based on the victims’ feelings and interests.

The Executive Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Prakash Mohara stated: “The case again extends the series of measures to silence critical voices of the civil society. Apart from that, the Prosecutor seems to want to convey the message that anyone who is critical against officials must be prosecuted before the courts. Furthermore, there is a very strong message, namely spreading fear  and not to try to excuse it from the freedom of expression and human rights. Finally, this trial process once again proves that the Prosecutor is a tool of power to silence those who are different and shows the increasingly strong phenomenon of democratic regression.”

The indictment is far-fetched, because there are many facts and arguments that have been compiled in an arbitrary manner, haphazardly. For example, the Prosecutor stated that Fatia was actively involved in the preparation of content and this is evident from the act of compiling notes containing the names of those to be mentioned at the time before the podcast was conducted. This proposition is of course not true because in fact, when the video was recorded, Fatia only brought nine quick studies of the civil society.

Based on the indictment read by the Public Prosecutor, Haris’ actions were essentially declared to have fulfilled the criminal elements as stipulated under Article 27 Paragraph (3) and Article 45 Paragraph (3) of the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (EITE Law) as well as Article 55 (2) (1) of the Criminal Code. 

The Prosecutor prosecuted Mr. Haris for four years and a fine of 1 million Rupiah, subsidiary to 6 months confinement. Apart from that, the Prosecutor also requested that Haris Azhar’s YouTube link be removed from the Internet Network. Meanwhile, Fatia was found guilty of violating Article 1. Same with Haris. The charges requested by the Prosecutor against Fatia are three term years and six months.