Indonesian Court Convicts Woman Of Criminal Defamation For Recording Her Boss Trying To Harass Her Into An Affair With Him

from the we've-heard-the-complaints-and-move-to-prosecute-the-person-harmed dept

Let's hear it for prosecutorial discretion!

A school bookkeeper in Indonesia who recorded her boss’s lewd phone call as proof she was being harassed must serve at least six months in prison for distributing obscene material, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled.


Her boss, who goes by the single name Muslim, as is common in Indonesia, was the principal at Senior High School Seven in Mataram, Lombok’s largest city. Ms. Nuril recorded him using explicit language and hounding her to have an affair. He was never punished for harassing her and instead has been promoted repeatedly.

To be fair, we have to consider the extremely unfair political/human rights atmosphere in Indonesia, where women are expected to put up with sexual harassment and sexual assault if they expect to hold onto their jobs. And this definitely is a case of prosecutorial discretion -- a case in which prosecutors decided to press charges against the person who recorded evidence of workplace harassment, rather than the government employee who harassed her.

This recording was shared with others, who then shared it with other people. Once enough people had heard it, the asshole known only by the name "Muslim" decided to file a complaint. This prosecution for criminal defamation -- that is, Muslim claimed he was defamed by a recording of him saying and doing harassing things -- has led to a six month jail sentence and a $35,000 fine. If the fine isn't paid, it's two more months in jail for the harassment victim.

But let's not get carried away with feeling better about living in an open society like ours in the US of A, land of the free and begrudging proponent of civil rights. We hear a lot of talk here about "prosecutorial discretion," especially when bad laws are being written, passed, or enforced. Our prosecutors tend to believe they're tough but fair and possessors of hearts of gold, but we looooove to punish victims just as much as more "backwards" societies.

On multiple occasions, prosecutors have levied child porn production charges against teens who have sent naked photos of themselves to other teens. If that charge can't be made to stick, prosecutors labor long and hard to find some way to stick stupid teens with lifetime sex offender labels simply for doing stupid teen things like sexting.

Our prosecutors also punish victims of school violence and harassment. In at least one case, a bullied student who recorded his bullies was hit with criminal charges for trying to document these attacks by other students. School administrators have also called the cops on students who surreptitiously record conversations with school officials, claiming these violate state wiretap ordinances.

The fine people in law enforcement have, for years, abused state wiretapping laws to punish bystanders for recording abusive police behavior. And there are dozens of cases of negligent homicide generated every year that punish crime victims for being the victims of crime. Our prosecutors will even charge a mother for "killing" an infant, when it was actually an off-duty cop doing double the speed limit blowing through a red light and demolishing the minivan containing the now-dead infant.

Are we really better than other countries that treat perpetrators of sexual oppression as "victims" of crimes? Maybe. But not by much. We may have a better system of recourse, but the qualified immunity doctrine has allowed many perpetrators of crimes and rights violations to walk away untouched from allegations of abuse and misconduct.

No, this is an institutional problem all over the world. The phrase "prosecutorial discretion" can routinely be taken to mean "the stupidest, most-abusive prosecutions" will result from any law that can be twisted to serve government employees who choose to behave badly.

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Filed Under: defamation, free speech, indonesia, sexual harassment

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2019 @ 6:11am

    Re: Re: If you're going to be an ass, at least be an honest one

    Perhaps they could have taken advice from the one sometimes called "a prophet of Islam" - John 8:7

    Stones - and glass houses - are a major point in this article.

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