Friday, June 5, 2009

The Rise and Influence Of Online Activism in INDONESIA

The Rise and Influence Of Online Activism in INDONESIA

Prita Mulyasari, who is being sued by Omni International Hospital in Tangerang for allegedly defaming the hospital in an e-mail to friends. She was languishing in jail because prosecutors decided that her e-mail amounted to a criminal act.

Prita has gone on to become a household name in the past week as a result of her plight. It was a Facebook posting that set that ball in motion by establishing a “cause” page on Facebook.
The page has drawn tens of thousands people to join Prita’s cause so far and raised an alarm that was taken up by the media, politicians and the general public. The result has been that Prita was released from detention and questions are being raised about the conduct of the prosecutors who brought the charges against her under the Information and Electronic Transaction Law.

This is a case of a law, designed to extend criminal libel actions to the Internet, being used to hamper perfectly normal communication. It seems only fitting, therefore, that the protest was generated online. That Facebook and other online communities came to the aid of Prita is an example of the growing power of social networking and other forms of new media to change the way political power and protest are expressed with lightning speed. Instead of marching on the streets to support Prita, tens of thousands of people clicked their support for the woman, quickly making her cause a matter of national urgency.

The Prita case is an example of the changes occurring in society as a result of new media and social networking. Online citizen activism is on the rise due to the ubiquitous presence of Facebook and other such sites in our lives. A cause can emerge from obscurity to become a major issue simply as a result of people “connecting” with like-minded allies they never even see or meet physically. It is obvious that this sort of activism will grow stronger in the years to come.

But there is also a risk in such rapid change. Misinformation can spread as quickly as “good” information and dangers to children, like online pornography, are a constant threat. It is up to the media — both traditional and new — to report on this new world of networking and information accurately and swiftly. There is no substitute for checking the facts, making level-headed judgments and being truthful. Media is a reflection of society and the values of honesty and accuracy must be maintained in both the virtual and the real world to avoid damaging reputations and credibility.

Excerpt Jakarta Globe Editorial

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