JAKARTA, Indonesia – A teenager received a suspended jail sentence for posting insulting comments on a romantic rival’s Facebook page, the latest case bringing Indonesia’s tough defamation laws under criticism.
Farah Nur Arafah, 18, was convicted Tuesday by three District Court judges in the town of Bogor, 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of Jakarta, of defaming her 18-year-old Facebook friend Felly Fandini. Arafah feared Fandini was attempting to sour the relationship with her boyfriend.
Arahaf’s posting in July last year called Fandini a pig and a dog, as well as saying she was promiscuous and overweight.
Presiding judge Ekofa Rahayu sentenced her to 75 days in prison, but suspended the sentence because Arafah cooperated during her trial. She must serve the sentence if she breaks the law in the next five months.
Arafah said her brush with the law had not put her off Facebook. “But I’ll be more careful about what comments I post,” she told The Jakarta Post newspaper.
Arafah’s defamation case was the latest involving social networking Web sites.
A group of reporters recently complained to police when Indonesian actress Luna Maya Twittered that tabloid journalists were worse than prostitutes and murderers. Police did not press charges.
A mother of two young children, Prita Mulyasari, became a national symbol for the plight of the powerless in Indonesia when she was sued by a hospital and spent three weeks in jail last year because she complained on Facebook that her mumps had been misdiagnosed. She has countersued.
Andreas Harsono, consultant for Human Rights Watch, said Wednesday the New York-based watchdog would release a report next month showing that Indonesia’s criminal defamation laws were among the world’s toughest.
Since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998, the penalty for defamation has been reduced from death to life in prison, Harsono said.
But now the number of defamation cases under civil and criminal statutes has increased as a means of protecting the powerful and corrupt from criticism, he said.
“It is an electoral democracy, but there are no civil liberties,” Harsono said.
A Facebook spokesman could not be immediately contacted for comment Wednesday.
Charges relating to Facebook posts are not uncommon. Earlier this month a teenager in the U.S. state of Illinois was charged with two counts of harassment through electronic communication, and a Florida woman was jailed for making threats on the Web site.