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Indonesia: Police To Drop Probe into Alleged Hate Speech by President’s Son

Arie Firdaus
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The video that led to Kaesang Pangarep being reported to police is seen on a cell phone in Jakarta, July 6, 2017.
The video that led to Kaesang Pangarep being reported to police is seen on a cell phone in Jakarta, July 6, 2017.
Arie Firdaus/BenarNews

Indonesian authorities say they have found nothing criminal in a vlog post by President Joko Widodo’s youngest son, after a police report alleged that he had insulted religion and spread hate speech in a video uploaded on his YouTube account in May.

In the video, Kaesang Pangarep, 22, criticizes behavior of some Muslims during protests against former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was convicted of blasphemy in May in a case that exposed the rising clout of conservative Islam in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

“Fanning conflict, throwing around ‘infidel’ accusations. Refusing to pray at the death of fellow Muslims, just because of differences in choosing a leader. What’s that about?” Kaesang says in the video, in a line cited in the police report.

He goes on to characterize such behavior as “ndeso,” a slang word meaning backwards or not modern.

The investigation “is not being continued. No criminal element was found,” Jakarta Metro Police spokesman Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said Thursday.

Police consulted three linguists about the remark and determined it was not an insult, Argo was quoted as saying in the Indonesian news outlet Tempo.

“There is no criminal element,” Deputy Police Chief Syafruddin told reporters at police headquarters in Jakarta.

Kaesang – whose YouTube channel has 31 videos, more than 300,000 subscribers and 21 million views – is currently accompanying his father on a working trip to Europe.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi declined to comment on the case. “Wait for the president or Kaesang to come home from Turkey and Germany,” he said.

Critical, not criminal

The police report was filed July 2 in Bekasi, a city adjacent to Jakarta, by local resident Muhammad Hidayat, who has filed some 60 hate speech complaints against different individuals, Jakarta police spokesman Argo told BenarNews.

The police report identifies the perpetrator as “Kaesang” and includes a line from his vlog “Dad Asks for a Project,” a short video that skewers nepotism and intolerance.

Authorities need to get serious about hate speech on social media, Hidayat told Metrotvnews on July 6.

“I don’t take into account if the perpetrator is the son of the president. I think spreading hate speech on social media is a crime that needs to be stopped,” he said.

In the video, Kaesang also comments about a group of kids who chanted “Kill Ahok” during a pre-Ramadan parade, seen in a video that went viral in late May.

“I’m not trying to protect Mr. Ahok. But I’m asking why kids of that age are like that. It’s very unfortunate when young kids are taught to spread hate. What’s that about? Basically ndeso!” he says.

The deputy chief of the Democratic Party urged police not to investigate the case further.

“Don’t look at who it is. It has to be handled,” Syarief Hasan told Tribunnews.

Social media expert Enda Nasution said the police decision to drop the investigation was the right one.

“I see a political element to this, a desire to shake Jokowi,” he told BenarNews, using the president’s nickname.

Nukman Luthfie, another social media observer, said the video did not insult religion or contain hate speech.

“I’ve watched it. What expressed there is normal. What’s not normal, is that it’s Jokowi’s son,” he said.

Pratiwi Febry, an activist with the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, also praised the police decision to drop the case.

“They know what is criticism, and what is criminal. They aren’t getting into suppressing freedom of opinion,” she said.

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