Indonesia Demonstrates the Other Side of Free Speech Spectrum

 

Indonesian Jail Cell

Indonesian Jail Cell

After being viciously defamed on the Internet, I think a number of my clients might think this case out of Indonesia is a pretty good solution, but in reality it stands as a stark example of what can happen when the Internet cesspool gets so bad that governments feel they must get involved (and of religious/governmental extremism).

A resident of Indonesia, Prita Mulyasari, was treated at a local hospital, but was not happy with her care.  She vented about the treatment in emails to a few friends.  Unfortunately, the friends thought their friends should also know about the hospital, so they posted the comments on their Facebook pages.

Not a good plan in a country like Indonesia.  For daring to criticize the hospital — which criticism is apparently automatically presumed to be false and defamatory when it involves medical services provided by the government — Mulyasari, 32, was arrested and charged with criminal defamation and faces six years in jail.  She sat in jail for three weeks before she was ever charged, and was fined $30,000 under a civil code even before she was charged under the criminal code.

[Update, August 16, 2009]  Prita Mulyasari became a cause celeb in Indonesia, with both Presidential candidates offering their support.  She was released under house arrest and the court then dropped the charges.  But not so fast.  With the elections over, a higher court ordered the trial court to reopen the case, stating the court had failed to offer any explanation for dropping two criminal charges.

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Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP

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View Aaron Morris, Trial Attorney and Partner at Morris & Stone, with emphasis on Free Speech and Defamation Law.

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