Misleading Restorative Justice
The authorities have been acting against criticism online using the virtual police. This is an erroneous way to apply restorative justice.
Arkham Mukmin did not write anything unusual. On his Instagram account @arkham_87, he posted, “What does he know about sports? He only knows about being given a position”. He was writing about Solo Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka in relation to commencement of the Menpora Cup soccer tournament in Solo.
He was being critical –- perhaps cynically. But cynicism is not a criminal offense. The inaccuracy in his criticism should have given the government a chance to clarify matters by stating Gibran understands soccer and that his position of mayor was not awarded him simply because he is the president's son. This is how criticism should be responded to in a democratic state, where people's rights are respected, and the police do not try to curry favor.
But the Indonesia of today is just the opposite. The police acted quickly against Arkham, and forced him to apologize to Gibran. The police proudly claimed Arkham was not prosecuted. They forgot that forcing a critic to apologize is at odds with the principle of freedom of expression. Repression of criticism only occurs in authoritarian states.
The action against Arkham was based on Indonesian National Police Chief Circular No. SE/2/11/2021 regarding virtual police issued in the mid-February. Armed with the document, the virtual police began monitoring conversations on social media and in discussion groups. As a result, the police sent warning to at least 125 posts deemed negative content, 89 of which were seen as containing incitement to hatred, including Arkham’s post.
When the program was launched, the police claimed they wanted to uphold the principle of restorative justice when resolving Internet cases. Prior, this principle was used mostly in human rights violation cases. In restorative justice, the victim and perpetrator are brought together for dialogue which hopefull would lead to mutual forgiveness. The law enforcement authorities developed the system to restore justice for victims, perpetrators and the public. Restorative justice prioritizes reconciliation and aims for out of court settlements.
But Arkham's case was a different story. Gibran is not a victim of human rights violation, neither did he file a report claiming victimhood of comments inciting hatred. In defamation cases, the purported victim is the party reporting the complaint.
It is difficult to digest that the government does not understand the principle of restorative justice -– after all Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud Md was the party who proposed restorative justice in a meeting with the National Police a few days prior to the police chief circular. In other words, we can rightly suspect the government aims to muzzle criticism without making a fuss.
Resultingly, the virtual police has become a tool for a government paranoid and averse to criticism to strike back. Working with buzzers and influencers, they attack critics and neutralize public criticism. At a time when many controversial government programs deserve critical scrutiny, opposing voices are sorely needed. Rather than spying on the public, the cyber police should be employed for more beneficial purposes such as creating a sense of public security from frightening Internet crimes such as piracy, hacking and fraud.