Mataram. The start of the Democratic Party's national working meeting in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, on Sunday (07/05) saw something unique: the signing of a petition against hoaxes and so-called fake news, which broke the record for the largest number of participants ever recorded by Indonesia's Museum of Records, or MURI.
According to MURI representatives, 9,709 people signed the petition, beating the previous record for a similar petition initiated by the East Kalimantan provincial government, which was signed by 3,000 people.
Democratic Party secretary general Hinca I.P. Pandjaitan thanked all the participants, especially the residents of West Nusa Tenggara and Governor M. Zainul Majdi, for their support.
The petition was signed at a venue on Jalan Udayana in Mataram, where an estimated 5,000 people are expected to attend the Democratic Party's national working meeting, which will see discussions between top party officials and local leaders. The meeting is scheduled to conclude on Tuesday.
Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudohoyono, his wife Ani Yudhoyono, and son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono – who was eliminated in the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election in February – were also present.
Yudhoyono also witnessed the launch of a book by Democratic Party member Putu Suasta on the same occasion.
The book titled "SBY's Twitter: A Leader's Note on Social Media," reviews tweets by the former president, popularly known by his initials SBY, since he created his official Twitter account, @SBYudhoyono, on April 13, 2013.
In his speech, Yudhoyono said he became active on social media as it allowed him to speak directly with the Indonesian people because his words were often twisted out of context, or only partially reported by the mass media and that this misled the public.
"That's why I used my political rights; my rights within our democracy; my basic human rights to go on Twitter," he said.
Yudhoyono pointed out that he was criticized for his tweets during the Jakarta gubernatorial race.
"[I was] attacked from here and there. Can SBY go on Twitter?" he said. "If it is not allowed, that means our democracy is ruined; our freedom destroyed. I support President Joko Widodo's fight against hoaxes and slander, as long as it is fair and just for all of us."
Ahead of the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, the former president tweeted about various issues, including his allegation that the clemency granted to former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Antasari Azhar was politically motivated. This came after Antasari, who was jailed for the murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, accused Yudhoyono of having framed him in the crime.
Yudhoyono reportedly also had an emotional response to rumors that he was the brains behind the Nov. 4 mass protest rally by Muslim hardliners to demand that incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be jailed on blasphemy allegations.
In an ironic twist, one analyst believes Yudhoyono's tweet so shortly before the first round of the election, lamenting the spread of hoaxes and fake news, may have ruined his son's chances of winning.
"I personally, the family of SBY, us, often become a victim of hoaxes, a victim of slander. Not long ago, there was an incredible hoax and slander against me, my family and our friends. Is it fair or not? Not fair," Yudhoyono said after signing the anti-hoax petition.
Besides calling on the authorities not to pick sides, Yudhoyono also stated his commitment to support press freedom, but freedom that is fair and responsible.
"From Mataram, we declare a national movement, even this is also aimed internationally to stop hoaxes and slander," he said.
Hoaxes and fake news have become a snowballing problem in Indonesia in recent months, especially coinciding with the hotly contested Jakarta gubernatorial election.
The sharing of fake news on social media has not only contributed to political tensions, but in a country with a long history of religious and ethnic conflict, it is considered potentially dangerous.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who is known as a moderate Muslim, has repeatedly vowed to crack down on hoaxes and fake news as this may destabilize his government.