Indonesia's Joko claims fake news affecting his re-election chances
Indonesian President says efforts to discredit him in West Java have resulted in 8% drop in his electability
JAKARTA: Incumbent President Joko Widodo has claimed that rampant fake news and slander has negatively affected his electability and that of his running mate, Mr Ma'ruf Amin, in West Java, Indonesia's most populous province.
"We were ahead by 4 per cent a month and a half ago in West Java, unlike in the (2014 presidential election), when we completely lost.
"But since then, our electability has dropped 8 per cent," he said on Saturday during a meeting with his regional campaign team in Kendari, South-east Sulawesi, as reported by kompas.com.
The team in West Java, he said, investigated the cause of the decrease and reportedly discovered efforts to discredit Mr Joko and Mr Ma'ruf through hoaxes and fake news.
"Please look out for disruptive messages in the grassroots," said the President.
Mr Joko is no stranger to smear campaigns and fake news. A video that recently went viral on social media showed three women claiming that should Mr Joko be re-elected as president, he would ban adzan (call to prayer) and legalise same-sex marriages.
West Java police have identified and arrested the women, naming them suspects for inciting hate speech under Information and Electronic Transactions Law.
Mr Joko pointed out the absurdity behind their claim. "Where is the logic in the government banning adzan? Our vice-presidential candidate is chairman of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI)," he said, referring to running mate Mr Ma'ruf.
West Java province is home to more than 47 million people. It is widely regarded as one of Indonesia's most religiously conservative regions, with Muslims making up 97 per cent of the population.
In a related development, National Police deputy chief Ari Dono Sukmanto said on Saturday that the police have been focusing on the prevention of growing confrontation between supporters of presidential candidates ahead of the legislative and presidential elections in April.
Commissioner General Ari said the rise of confrontation between supporters of the two camps is not only on social media, but also in public.
"They are usually noisy only on social media, but now they are also doing it offline. We must prevent this trend," he said in a discussion held by the Families of the National Police at a hotel in South Jakarta.
With more than half the population connected to the Internet, Indonesians are very much attached to social media platforms, making fake news and hate speech online prone to causing disputes offline.
"(The disruptive effect of misinformation) happened in the (2016) presidential election in the United States. Perhaps this could happen to us, too. The public must be ready to respond to this critically," Commissioner General Ari said, referring to the rampant misinformation on Facebook that had allegedly influenced the US election. - JAKARTA POST/ANN