Police in Bali have formally reminded both locals and tourists on the island that uploading videos or photos of anyone breaking the law on the island could be a criminal act unto itself.
This is because Indonesia has some of the strictest online defamation laws anywhere in the world.
On Sunday, 28th May, Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster held a press conference in Denpasar; during his speech, he urged local residents to formally report any and all incidences of foreigners breaking the law on the island or disrespecting local culture.
He was clear that reports should be filed under the correct process via the authorities. Governor Koster told reporters that “Bali residents are obliged to report on foreign tourists’ activities that are inappropriate [legally or culturally] or inconsistent with their visa permits to the local police, immigration office, the Public Order Security Agency [Satpol PP], pecalang [Balinese traditional village security] and tourism office.”
Following Governor Poster’s announcement and the rise in what some online commentators have referred to as ‘social media vigilantism,’ other officials in Bali have reminded the public about the country’s online defamation laws.
The Head of Public Relations of the Bali Police, Kombes Pol Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto, confirmed that anyone who wants to ‘report’ or publicly draw attention to a foreigner breaking the law in Bali should pay extra attention to the type of content that they are uploading.
Kombes Setianto noted that if the content could be considered ‘pornographic,’ it is not only the person/people in the video liable for criminal prosecution but also the person who recorded and uploaded the content to social media.
Kombes Setianto explained, “If there is an incident, the public can immediately report it to the police or other relevant agencies. [Reporting] can also be done via social media as long as it doesn’t violate the rules, as stipulated in the ITE Law [Online Defamation Law]…Content like this doesn’t need to be made viral because what is going viral is also violating the law.”
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Reporters suggested to Kombes Setianto that the reason why many local people are uploading potentially incriminating content online is to help gain the attention of the authorities more quickly than if they used formal channels.
Kombes Setianto confirmed that reports are being taken seriously and are looked into in a timely manner. The same advice goes for foreigners who wish to report incidences of other foreigners breaking the law or disrespecting the local culture in Bali.
Officials in Bali are now urging the public to take action but keep in mind that the public image of tourism in Bali is at stake. Every incident must be handled firmly and quickly.
Governor Koster himself acknowledges that taking a proactive approach to crack down on badly behaved tourists on the island is ‘something of a ‘double-edged sword’.
The Police Chief for Bali, Inspector General Pol Putu Jayan Danu Putra, has asked the public not to spread viral content of foreigners behaving badly in a haphazard or careless way.
He wants to ensure that the ‘naughty actions’ of foreign tourists do not go viral on social media.
He echoed statements made by Kombes Setianto and said, “Regarding community participation and behavior that has made the ITE Law viral, we will process it so it is not arbitrary. The role of the community is to report to prevent the occurrence of deviant acts committed by tourists.”
These statements come as yet another incident of foreigners displaying public nudity went viral over the weekend.
In an incident in Legian, a woman was recorded exposing herself while on the back of a moped. Immigration and police officials quickly tracked down the woman and her partner, and their case remains in process with Ngurah Rai Immigration.
While the statements made by officials in Bali appear firm and direct, they come as a result of the actions of a tiny, tiny minority of visitors to the island.
Travel data for the month of May will be released in the coming days, but in April alone, over 700,000 international visitors came to Bali.
While there have been more deportations in the first quarter of the year than in any other before, it remains the case that the vast majority of tourists heading to Bali have nothing to worry about.
This is because the vast majority of tourists to Bali are respectful, law-abiding and understand the do’s and don’ts of island life.
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