Social Media, A Healthy Vehicle for Freedom of Expression

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#Twitter ‘s Censorship Plan illustration by Latuff Cartoon

“Allah is not an Arabian. Surely Allah is happy when his verses are read in the style of Minang, Ambon, Chinese, Hip-hop, Blues…”
Ade Armando’s Facebook status on 19th of May 2015

This status got University of Indonesia lecturer Ade Armando named as a suspect of religion blasphemy case. Ade was claimed for allegedly violating the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

A Twitter user, Johan Khan (@CepJohan) reported Ade to Polda Metro Jaya (Jakarta Police) on May 23, 2015. Johan reported this matter to the authorities because Ade didn’t release any apology statement after 24 hours.

However, the trial was terminated because the investigators could not find indications of criminal activity in the case.

Read more: UI lecturer named suspect for social media posts and Police terminate investigation into UI lecturer’s alleged blasphemy

Ade Armando in Global Intermediate Dialogue in University of Indonesia (Photo is a screen grab from VOM video)

Freedom of Expression on Social Media

Does his experience cause Ade to be more careful in expressing his thoughts in the social media?

It turns out it doesn’t.

A journalist of Voice of Millennials managed to find him again in the first day of World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Jakarta and he said, “I firmly believe in promoting freedom of expression, so in that sense I am advocating this idea for people to be able to talk freely through social media. I really believe social media is the real public sphere where people can say anything.”

Ade also stated that social media were healthy vehicles for debates, discussions, or to find different perspectives. Every social media user should use it as a way to express him or herself in democracy.

However, we have to be able to define freedom of expression properly.

“Because freedom of expression never meant to be ‘freedom to say anything’. There are limits, there are limitations,” he added.

Who should govern the limitation?

“The highest authority should be the government, but the more ideal situation is every part of civil society understands what should be defined as freedom of speech or hate speech (…) Hate speech doesn’t mean everything hateful is hate speech,” Ade answered.

He explained that hate speech always referred to a type of speech, which denigrates, ridicules, mocks, bullies, or contains the intention to bring certain people or groups down.

“But it (hate speech) can also be related to tribe, race, religion, ethnicity, ideology, gender, things like that,” he added.

He gave an example: If he as a person who criticized the government as an ineffective or stupid government, that wasn’t considered as hate speech.

It would be better for people to understand properly about hate speech. In that case, they would know things which wouldn’t be protected by freedom of expression.

“The problem is we can’t always expect everybody to be as rational as that. There will always be bigots. In that case, you need government to step in,” he said.

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