Indonesian musician jailed over social media post on coronavirus

JAKARTA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A Indonesian musician who is a drummer for Bali-based punk rock band Superman is Dead was sentenced on Thursday to 14 months in jail for criticising the country’s medical association on his Instagram account over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

I Gede Ari Astina, better known by his stage name “Jerinx”, was found guilty of violating Indonesia’s electronic information and transactions (ITE) law and sentenced to 14 months in jail and fined 10 million rupiah ($707), Denpasar State court spokesman Made Pasek said.

A panel of judges found him guilty of disseminating hate speech, in a case that rights activists have described as an attack on freedom of speech.

“It’s pathetic that during a national crisis, the Indonesian authorities seem more interested in silencing online critics like Jerinx than undertaking a massive COVID-19 public information campaign,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said.

The charges sprung from a post on the musician’s Instagram account last June in which he criticised the Indonesian Medical Association and called it a “lackey” of the World Health Organisation.

Prosecutors had sought for Jerinx, who had previously attracted controversy for spreading conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, to be jailed for three years.

The musician’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Indonesia’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform said in a statement the verdict was legally flawed and “clearly dangerous for the democratic climate in Indonesia”. ($1 = 14,140.0000 rupiah) (Additional reporting by Stanley Widianto; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies and Kim Coghill)