Fitnah or Libel

Fitnah, or Libel, is an easy crime in Indonesia


First warning:

In Indonesia, fitnah, or in English “libel” if written or “slander” if verbal, is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Police and courts often apply a low threshold of evidence.

As an example, in one well known case in 2009, a young mother named Prita, with two young children at home, was imprisoned for writing in private emails to friends that she had received “unprofessional service” at a large Jakarta hospital. Now if Prita had written “it seemed to me unprofessional” or “I suspect the service was unprofessional” she might have gotten away with it. But she stated as a bare fact that the service was unprofessional, and that was a charge that she, not being a doctor, could not prove. (See Prita Cites ‘Right To Criticize’ as Defense Attacks and Indonesian Law Forbids Criticism of Corruption to Hospital Service)

If you have a big mouth, be careful. Expatriates tend to spout off in anger much more easily than Indonesians. The easiest way to get rid of an unwanted expatriate is to file a charge of fitnah. Stating what to you may seem obvious—that a business partner was “dishonest” or “cheated” you, for instance—could subject you to arrest. Your charge is unproven unless your partner is actually tried and convicted, and in the meantime you have slandered him, and you could well be arrested and convicted before your partner's case comes to trial, if it ever does.

A common expatriate response to a charge of fitnah is to leave Indonesia. You are facing a prison sentence in an uncertain legal system. Run away, case closed.

We will explore and explain fitnah in more detail in the coming months at this site.