Asrul Case: Indonesia Journalist sentenced to prison after investigating corruption case

Palopo-based journalist Muhammad Asrul was sentenced to 3 months in prison after he did an in-depth investigation about a corruption done by the son of the Palopo mayor and wrote articles published in an online media where he worked at, beritanews.com. The verdict was read out by the panel of judges at the Palopo District Court last Tuesday (23 November).

Asrul was accused under the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law. The court stated that Asrul was legally and convincingly proven to have violated Article 45 paragraph 1 in conjunction with Article 27 paragraph 3 of the ITE Law. 

It all started two years ago in May 2019, after he published three articles about the Palopo mayor’s son titled “Putra Mahkota Palopo Diduga ‘Dalang’ Korupsi PLTNH dan Keripik Zaro Rp11Mpublished on 10 May 2019; “Aroma Korupsi Revitalisasi Lapangan Pancasila Palopo Diduga Seret Farid Judaspublished on 24 May 2019; and “Jilid II Korupsi Jalan Lingkar Barat Rp 5 M, Sinyal Penyidik Untuk Farid Judas?”, published on 25 May 2019. 

A lawsuit against him was filed on 17 December 2019. He was summoned by the police on 29 January 2020 and was taken to the South Sulawesi Police headquarters. Asrul, who was not accompanied by any legal counsel at that time, was questioned and detained at the South Sulawesi Police headquarters jail from 30 January to 5 March 2020. 

He managed to get out of the police custody after getting help from the Press Council. The council wrote an official letter stating they will resolve this issue in accordance with Law Number 40 of 1999 on the Press and the memorandum of understanding between the council and the police No.2/DP/MoU/II/2018 and No.B/5/II/2017 on the coordination in protecting the freedom of the press and law concerning the misuse of the journalist profession. 

The Press Council then concluded that the news articles Asrul wrote were considered as journalistic products, so it does need to go through the criminal court process. However, the trial continued until Asrul was finally sentenced to prison.

The Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) stated that Asrul’s case is considered as a criminalisation of journalists. This can be seen from the use of Article 28 paragraph 2 concerning hate speech to construct the whole case. If Asrul’s articles were considered as hate speech, they are supposed to show discrimintation towards race, ethnicity, religion and/or intergroup relations.

“If he covers and raises the issue about an alleged corruption, then there are no certain groups that are harmed. The only group that is harmed are the group of corrupted people. This is a sign that the construction of this case is actually a criminalisation,” said SAFENet Executive Director Damar Juniarto. 

Palopo-based journalist Muhammad Asrul was sentenced to 3 months in prison after he did an in-depth investigation about a corruption done by the son of the Palopo mayor and wrote articles published in an online media where he worked at, beritanews.com. The verdict was read out by the panel of judges at the Palopo District Court last Tuesday (23 November).

Asrul was accused under the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law. The court stated that Asrul was legally and convincingly proven to have violated Article 45 paragraph 1 in conjunction with Article 27 paragraph 3 of the ITE Law. 

It all started two years ago in May 2019, after he published three articles about the Palopo mayor’s son titled “Putra Mahkota Palopo Diduga ‘Dalang’ Korupsi PLTNH dan Keripik Zaro Rp11Mpublished on 10 May 2019; “Aroma Korupsi Revitalisasi Lapangan Pancasila Palopo Diduga Seret Farid Judaspublished on 24 May 2019; and “Jilid II Korupsi Jalan Lingkar Barat Rp 5 M, Sinyal Penyidik Untuk Farid Judas?”, published on 25 May 2019. 

A lawsuit against him was filed on 17 December 2019. He was summoned by the police on 29 January 2020 and was taken to the South Sulawesi Police headquarters. Asrul, who was not accompanied by any legal counsel at that time, was questioned and detained at the South Sulawesi Police headquarters jail from 30 January to 5 March 2020. 

He managed to get out of the police custody after getting help from the Press Council. The council wrote an official letter stating they will resolve this issue in accordance with Law Number 40 of 1999 on the Press and the memorandum of understanding between the council and the police No.2/DP/MoU/II/2018 and No.B/5/II/2017 on the coordination in protecting the freedom of the press and law concerning the misuse of the journalist profession. 

The Press Council then concluded that the news articles Asrul wrote were considered as journalistic products, so it does need to go through the criminal court process. However, the trial continued until Asrul was finally sentenced to prison.

The Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) stated that Asrul’s case is considered as a criminalisation of journalists. This can be seen from the use of Article 28 paragraph 2 concerning hate speech to construct the whole case. If Asrul’s articles were considered as hate speech, they are supposed to show discrimintation towards race, ethnicity, religion and/or intergroup relations.

“If he covers and raises the issue about an alleged corruption, then there are no certain groups that are harmed. The only group that is harmed are the group of corrupted people. This is a sign that the construction of this case is actually a criminalisation,” said SAFENet Executive Director Damar Juniarto. 

Source: https://www.thefineryreport.com/news/2021/11/26/journalist-from-palopo-sentenced-to-prison-after-investigating-corruption-case

According to Asrul’s legal representative Abdul Azis Dumpa, Asrul has seven days to decide whether to accept or appeal the verdict. “In our opinion, to appeal the verdict is the best way [that can be taken in this case], but a decision will not be made before the defendant said so because it all depends on him, considering all the legal consequences he might face. So we are waiting for the decision from the defendant himself,” Azis explained.

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