On August 2, 2016, the National Police, the Indonesian Military (TNI), and the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) each filed complaints against Haris Azhar for defamation under the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law. The law, which prohibits any person from distributing, transmitting, or making accessible electronic information “with contents of affronts and/or defamation”, carries a penalty of up to six years in prison and a one billion Rupiah (approximately 68,500 Euro) fine.
The defamation complaints stem from an article that Haris Azhar wrote and subsequently published on social media on July 28, 2016. In the article, titled “The Dark Story of a Bandit: testimony from a meeting with Freddy Budiman in Nusakambangan Prison (2014)”, Haris Azhar detailed statements made by the convicted drug lord who was executed on July 29, 2016. According to him, police officials, including officials from the National Police and BNN, regularly received kickbacks from his drug business.
“ Instead of pursuing defamation charges against Haris Azhar, the authorities must investigate the alleged corruption of police officials. The right to scrutinise institutions and report on allegations of corruption is a legitimate exercise of Haris’ right to freedom of opinion and expression”, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
Police are now considering summoning Haris Azhar for questioning. Police Chief Spokesman General Boy Rafli Amar said that the allegations made by Haris Azhar needed to be backed by proof.
Drug smuggling is a prominent issue in Indonesia. In 2015, Indonesia executed 14 individuals who had been convicted of drug-related offenses. So far, four individuals have been executed for drug crimes in 2016.
“ Authoritative UN jurisprudence has confirmed that criminal defamation laws should not be invoked if there is a public interest in the subject matter of the criticism. We urge the Indonesian authorities to drop all charges seeking criminalisation of the legitimate human rights activities of Haris Azhar”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
Finally, the Observatory calls upon Indonesian authorities to protect Haris Azhar from any acts of reprisals committed in response to his legitimate human rights work.