Student jailed after post on social media app Path

JAKARTA, Indonesia - In what appears to be a case of one too many overreactions, several Indonesian politicians and netizens are now rallying behind a student who has been arrested for defamation, just days after that same student was massively vilified online for the social media post that led to her detention in the first place.

It has gone too far, University of Indonesia criminologist Iqrak Sulhin says, referring to the case involving 26-year-old Florence Sihombing, that began with a failed attempt to buy gasoline on Wednesday, August 27, in the city of Yogyakarta.

Seeing the long queue of motorbikes for subsidized fuel at a gas station in Yogyakarta, Florence drove her Scoopy motorbike to the line for cars buying unsubsidized gasoline, which was much shorter. But the gas station attendants refused to fill up her tank and told her she still had to go to the motorbike queue.

An angry Florence left the gas station without buying gas and vented her frustration through a 15-word post on the social media app Path – a popular app among Indonesians – which has now caused her so much trouble.

“Jogja is poor, stupid and uncultured. Friends from Jakarta and Bandung, don’t stay in Jogja,” the Gadjah Mada University student wrote, using the shorthand for the city known as a center of education and culture in Indonesia.

Screenshot of Florence's post on social media app Path that went viral.

Screenshot of Florence's post on social media app Path that went viral.

JANJI TANAH JOGJA "Jika km mencintai JOGJA,JOGJA akn berimu bnyk CINTA,jk km benci JOGJA,JOGJApun BIJAK menyikapinya" pic.twitter.com/jWrku2D49X — Gigin Nonalisa (@GiginNonalisa) August 28, 2014

When she failed to issue an apology by Thursday evening, several groups upped the ante and filed a police report accusing her of committing defamation – a criminal offense under Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transaction Law.

Police summoned Florence for questioning on Saturday, August 30, and subsequently detained because “she might get rid of evidence and she was being uncooperative.”

"This evidence (screenshot of the Path post) has gone viral in social media such as Twitter, Facebook. How on earth can she make them disappear?” Iqrak, the criminologist, told Kompas.com.

Iqrak added that Indonesia's Constitution also protects the people’s right to freely speak their mind. "It is normal for someone to criticize many things. Do not ever criminalize it. This is dangerous," he said.

'Free Florence'

In the wake of her arrest, several prominent people have called on Yogyakarta Police to release her, including Communications and Information Ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu.

“It was an ethical offense, there’s no need to detain her. Social sanctions are enough,” Ismail told Detik.com.

Instead of arresting Florence, police should instead mediate between her and the parties who filed the complaint against her, a coalition of non-governmental organizations told BBC Indonesia.

Lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari echoed their statement, and added that Florence’s action did not post any social or political danger, Kompas.com reported.

Artist and comedian Butet Kertaradjasa said the social sanction endured by Florence was sufficient punishment for her actions, and that her arrest was in turn giving a bad image to Yogyakarta’s police and residents.

Tanggapan yang lebih bijak dari orang Jogja asli, @masbutet, ttg penahanan Florence Sihombing pic.twitter.com/P0ix4FBDul — Joko Anwar (@jokoanwar) August 31, 2014

But though Florence has already issued an apology, Ryan Nugroho, one of those who reported her to police, has so far refused to withdraw their police report, saying it seemed she only apologized to get them to back down. – Rappler.com