Social media accounts of activists who talked about a road project in Labuan Bajo, the venue of the summit, hacked
A collage of screenshots of pressure attempts, including the hacking of social media accounts, against members of some civil society organizations who criticize the Indonesian government's failure to pay compensation to villagers in Labuan Bajo, the venue of the 42nd ASEAN summit. (Photo supplied)
Activists in Indonesia, including Catholics, have accused the government of hacking their social media accounts to prevent them from raising a compensation issue near the venue of the 42nd ASEAN Summit that Indonesia is hosting.
Melky Nahar, a Catholic activist, said the WhatsApp accounts of 12 activists and journalists were hacked after they protested the government's failure to provide compensation to villages in Labuan Bajo, whose properties were acquired for a road project connected to the ASEAN summit.
Nahar, the national coordinator of the non-governmental organization Mining Advocacy Network, said he realized the hacking when he turned on his phone. “Then, a notification appeared that my number was no longer registered and there was a request for verification.”
"Sometime after that, the accounts of three other staff also experienced the same issue on May 11," he told UCA News.
Rosis Adir, editor-in-chief of Floresa.co, a local media based in Labuan Bajo, told UCA News that one of his journalist's Telegram and WhatsApp accounts were hacked after he filed a report on Labuan Bajo.
The journalist also received calls from an army intelligence officer who had previously intimidated him for writing about the Labuan Bajo road project, Adir added.
Sasmito Madrim, chairperson of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, strongly condemned the hacking attempt, and called it a "form of state control over information."
Nahar had joined many other civil society groups to organize a series of discussions on the government’s neglect to provide compensation to villagers in Cumbi, Nalis and Kenari in Labuan Bajo, the venue for the ASEAN summit on Flores island in the Christian-majority province of East Nusa Tenggara.The summit formally kicked off on May 10 and is chaired by Indonesia, after its turn in 2011.
The villagers continue to fight for compensation after their land and farms were acquired for a 25-kilometer road, leading to one of the ASEAN summit venues in Golo Mori. The new road was inaugurated by President Joko Widodo on March 14.
At least 51 families, most of whom were farmers, were evicted while 23 houses, 14,050 square meters of yards, 1,790 square meters of rice fields, and 1,080 square meters of farmland were confiscated without compensation.
Villagers planned to hold a protest on May 9. However, it was canceled after warnings from the National Police Headquarters that they would be compensated as long as they don't protest.
The New Indonesia Expedition Team, which highlighted the issue on its social media, stated that three of its staff's WhatsApp accounts were hacked.
Sunspirit for Justice and Peace, a Labuan Bajo-based advocacy group, received a message on WhatsApp from an account using the official cyber police logo, asking it to delete a tweet on the government’s neglect of compensation.
According to the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, which champions digital rights, digital crackdowns have increased over the past three years from 147 cases in 2020 to 193 cases in 2021 and 302 cases in 2022 in Indonesia.
Last year, hacking topped the list with 178 incidents, followed by a leak of personal data with 40 cases. Nearly 42.81 percent of the victims were critical groups such as activists, journalists, media and civil society organizations, with a total of 140 victims.
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