Human rights activists have called for a revision of the Electronic Information and Transactions Law after the Supreme Court sentenced a woman to six months' imprisonment and a fine of Rp 500 million ($34,000) last week for 'violating decency' over a recording of an unsolicited and indecent phone call from her former boss that leaked to the public. (Antara Photo/Saiful Arif)

Woman Jailed for Defending Herself Against Sexual Harassment Pleads for Amnesty

NOVEMBER 16, 2018

Jakarta. When Baiq Nuril Maknun recorded a phone conversation with her former boss to protect herself from his unwanted sexual advances, she could never have imagined it would ultimately land her in prison.

However, the Supreme Court found Nuril guilty last week of defaming Muslim, her alleged harasser, after a recording of his lustful phone call to her leaked to the public.

The court sentenced Nuril to six months' imprisonment and a fine of Rp 500 million ($34,000) for "violating decency" under Article 27 of the Electronic Information and Transactions Law, overturning the verdict of a lower court, which found her not guilty.

"The Mataram District Court's ruling proved I am not guilty. I am truly a victim of sexual harassment, and this isn't just," Nuril says in a video published by the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (Safenet).

In a statement issued on Wednesday, human rights group Amnesty International Indonesia said unsolicited, sexually explicit and abusive telephone calls, such as the one Nuril reportedly received from Muslim, constitute sexual harassment.

"It is a travesty that while the victim of the alleged abuse has been convicted for recording this call, little if any action appears to have been taken by the authorities to investigate what appear to be credible claims," said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

Nuril's case has also garnered public attention, with an ongoing fundraising campaign on aiming to collect money to help her pay the fine.

More than 800 people had donated nearly Rp 100 million as of Thursday afternoon.

Indecent Phone Calls

Nuril's ordeal began while working as a contract teacher at a public high school in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, in 2012  when she started to receive frequent phone calls from Muslim, who was the school's principal at the time.

She recorded one of these calls, in which Muslim allegedly detailed his sexual experience with another woman and made sexually explicit comments to prove that she was not involved with him as false rumors were spreading about the matter.

Though Nuril did not intend to file an official report, a colleague got a hold of the recording that subsequently went viral on social media, which led Muslim to report her to the West Nusa Tenggara Police for defamation in 2015.

The case went to trial in 2017, a process that saw Nuril being detained for two months before the Mataram District Court suspended her detention amid a public outcry.

Although the district court found Nuril not guilty in July that year, prosecutors submitted a cassation petition to the Supreme Court soon after, which led to last week's controversial guilty verdict.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) said in a statement that the Supreme Court had been careless in its verdict, pointing to how Nuril had not spread the recording herself and that the item was a means to defend herself, as well as a warning to prevent other people from falling victim to Muslim.

Problematic Law

According to Safenet, more than 380 people have been imprisoned since the so-called ITE Law was enacted in 2008, with 90 percent of them having been charged with defamation, and the remainder with hate speech.

The law has been perceived as problematic, as it is considered open to subjective interpretation, which has resulted in the jailing of people for merely expressing their opinions, thoughts and criticisms on the internet.

Usman said Nuril's case is yet another example of the repressive use of the ITE Law.

"Its vague definitions of defamation, blasphemy and in this case 'sharing information violating decency' have routinely been used in abusive ways – often to silence freedom of expression," the Amnesty International Indonesia executive director said.

He called for Nuril to be freed and for the ITE Law to be revised.

The ICJR echoed his sentiment, urging the government to begin a process of revising the law.

Can the President Step In?

In another video message, also published by Safenet, Nuril pleads with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to intervene in her case.

"Mr. President, I am only asking for justice, because I am the victim. Is it my fault if I try to defend myself in my own way?" Nuril said between tears and stammers.

According to the ICJR, there are two ways to help Nuril. One would be to apply for a judicial review of her case with submission of new evidence, while the other is to request the president to grant her amnesty.

Article 14 of the 1945 Constitution states that the president can grant someone amnesty based on considerations presented by the House of Representatives. Furthermore, the 1954 Emergency Law on Amnesty and Abolition also allows the president to grant amnesty if it is in the national interest.

"In the name of humanity and for the sake of the national interest to protect victims of sexual abuse, President Jokowi can and should really consider granting amnesty to Baiq Nuril," the ICJR said.