Ni Komang Erviani, Contributor, Denpasar |Fri, 06/12/2009 2:43 PM | Bali
Dozens of local journalists, bloggers and human rights activists staged a peaceful rally Thursday at Denpasar District Court to express their support of Prita Mulyasari, a housewife currently on trial for libel and defamation after writing an email criticizing Omni International Hospital.
The rally was also aimed at voicing opposition to what the protesters described as efforts to limit free speech.
Prita is charged with violating Article 27 (3) Law No 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transaction, an offense that carries a penalty of six years imprisonment. The mother of two toddlers is also charged with breaching Article 310 and 311 of the Criminal Code on defamation.
Prita was detained by prosecutors in a state penitentiary for more than 30 days until a public outcry forced them to grant her a house.
The rally was held Thursday, the day Prita was scheduled to appear at the Tangerang District Court for the second hearing of her trial.
The protesters carried banners with the slogans, “Stop Criminalizing Freedom of Expression,” and “Revoke Article 27 *33* of the Law on Information and Electronic Transaction”, and “Free Prita Now”.
Some protestors taped their mouths with strips of paper with, “Revoke Article 27 *3* of Law on Information and Electronic Transaction” written across them.
In a written statement read by Rofiqi Hasan, a member of the Denpasar branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the protesters demanded the court dismiss the case and release Prita immediately, and asked the government to revoke any articles in the country’s laws that could be used to suppress free speech.
“Those articles are a clear and present danger to the public’s right to express their opinions,” Rofiqi said.
Representative of the Bali Bloggers Community (BBC) Anton Muhajir said that Article 27 (3) Law No 11/2008 threatened the existence of bloggers as it made them vulnerable to civil and criminal lawsuits filed by parties that wanted to silence particular voices.
“We shouldn’t let this article erode the pillars of democracy or the freedom of expression,” he warned.
The protesters were received by an official form the court, Nyoman Sutama, who said he had no authority to revise the law and no jurisdiction to influence the outcome of Prita’s trial in Tangerang.