Human rights activists show solidarity with Baiq Nuril Maknun during a demonstration at the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta last year. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Jokowi's Amnesty Last Hope for Indonesia’s #MeToo Icon


JULY 05, 2019

Jakarta. The fate of Baiq Nuril Maknun, who was charged under Indonesia's notorious electronic information law for recording sexual advances by her boss, now rests on a possible amnesty from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo after the Supreme Court dismissed a review of her case on Friday. 

Nuril became an icon of Indonesia's #MeToo movement after her court fight against her boss' defamation lawsuit captured public attention last year. Her failure to get justice since then represents the fear shared among many Indonesian women that their fight against sexual harassment, even if it is brought to court, could always be thwarted by a defamation lawsuit. 

"Now is the right time for President Jokowi, the highest authority in the land, to bring justice by granting an amnesty [for Nuril]," Amnesty International Indonesia and Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network said in a joint statement on Friday. 

According to the organizations, Jokowi does not need to wait for a formal amnesty request from Nuril to act on her behalf. 

"This will be a significant show of support from the president for victims of sexual abuse in Indonesia who still face persecution," Amnesty and Safenet said. 

Nuril was working as a highschool teacher in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, in 2012, when she recorded a telephone call from her headmaster, who has been identified only by his initial M., in which he told her the details of a sexual tryst with supposedly another woman. 

Three years later, the audio recording circulated widely in the close-knit Mataram community, which made M. furious. The headmaster then reported Nuril to the police for recording and spreading the recording. 

Nuril was first tried at the Mataram District Court, and then lost her subsequent appeals at the higher courts. Finally, the Supreme Court sentenced her to six months in prison and fined her Rp 500 million ($35,500) in September. 

Nuril appealed to have the verdict reviewed but the Supreme Court rejected the request on Friday.

The court's spokesman, Chief Justice Andi Samsan Nganro, said in a statement on Friday that Nuril had recorded an improper conversation on a cellphone and then handed over the recording to other people, which led to the conversation being shared widely among the public.

According to the court, that was enough to uphold her sentence. Nuril was charged under a 2011 law on electronic information, specifically article 27, which prohibits anyone from intentionally distributing, transmitting or making available to other people electronic information that contains insult or defamation. 

Meanwhile, M. was removed from his position as headmaster but remains on a job with the Mataram Education Department.