Thursday, December 8, 2016


The court is originally a place where people can find justice and the truth. And above all, the court cannot be used an instrument to achieve political interests.

Many of us are familiar with the tale of Icarus in Greek mythology, which is about a young man who escapes imprisonment using giant wings created by his father, Daedalus.

Icarus was so enthusiastic about flying that he ignored his father’s warning against him flying too high and too close to the sun because the wings would break.

The wings that at first helped Icarus became the reason for his death, inspiring Dennis Miller ( 1990 ) to coin the Icarus paradox, referring to a failure that resulted from the very elements that initially led to success.

Apparently, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama is experiencing this paradox. He rose as a media darling for championing transparency. He translates transparency into letting the public know about meetings he held, speeches he delivered and activities he conducted.

The blasphemy allegations he is now facing stem from his speech he uploaded onto YouTube.

Now, transparency is used to calm his adversaries to patiently wait for his trial, which is slated to begin on Dec. 13. The question now is whether we will watch another lengthy trial that is broadcast live on television and whether it, if it happens, is appropriate.

Those who agree may find their justification in Article 64 of the Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP). It is true that the trial Ahok will face is open to the public. However, it does not necessarily mean it can be broadcast live. Moreover, it may potentially work against the neutrality of witnesses if it is.

According to Article 159, the presiding judge shall issue an order that prevents witnesses from communicating with one another prior to testifying in court.

The intention is to prevent them from influencing one another and to enable them to testify independently. Therefore, if the trial is broadcast live it opens up the possibility of witnesses influencing each other.

With the mob rule becoming a phenomenon in Indonesia, the safety of witnesses will also spark concern. Live coverage of witnesses’ testimony may bring harm to them if somehow the mob dislikes their accounts.

This condition must come into the law enforcer’s calculation. With the emergence of the mob rule, we cannot be sure of what kind of threats may be faced by the witnesses, especially if the aspiration is that Ahok has to go to prison, no matter what.

Transparency is a good trait within democracy. But it also brings a problem if transparency is abused and falls into the wrong hands.

Therefore, the wisdom of the head judge and the media are sought in this case. We cannot deny that this case will attract the public’s attention.

We have already experienced a live broadcast of a murder trial that divided the public into two extremes.

Whether the defendant was found guilty or not was not determined when the verdict was read out, but when people outside the courtroom commented on the case. The trial seemed to lose its authority as the defendant was convicted by the press, or worse, by society.

Such a trial by the press or society may be repeated in the case of Ahok. A middle ground can be achieved. Specifically, for the hearing of the fact witnesses, I hope that it will not be broadcast live, not only for the safety of witnesses, but also for a fair trial that is the objective of the procedural law.

This does not mean that media coverage is not allowed. The media can get access to the rest of the trial.

We hope that Ahok’s trial will not serve as a rubber stamp to put him in prison given the pressures that have been translated in three rallies called the “Defending Islam Action”, in which hundreds of thousands of people turned up to demand his arrest.

The court is originally a place where people can find justice and the truth. And above all, the court cannot be used an instrument to achieve political interests.

In the case of Ahok’s trial, transparency is a paradox. As journalist Tina Brown puts it, we live in the culture of destructive transparency. It is true that live broadcast of a trial will give the public access to the course of a court hearing. It may be good for Ahok’s publicity and to satisfy his detractors’ thirst for punishment against him.

But fairness is my concern. So, how we interpret transparency in this case will determine whether it bring us closer to truth and justice or just to another paradox.



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