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Indonesian news website attacked after reporting child abuse

The story said police ignored evidence presented by a mother accusing her ex-husband of sexually abusing their three children

Indonesian news website attacked after reporting child abuse

A cover illustration published by Project Multatuli depicting the police neglect in the handling of child sexual abuse by the biological father of his three small children. (Photo: Project Multatuli)

An Indonesian public journalism initiative, Project Multatuli, was digitally attacked and its website brought down within hours of publishing a report on alleged police inaction in a case of child sexual abuse involving a civil servant and his three children.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists said in a statement on Oct. 8 that the attack on projectmultatuli.org, known for raising the voices of marginalized groups, occurred after it published a story reported by a mother in South Sulawesi accusing her ex-husband, a civil servant in the East Luwu district government office, of sexually abusing their three children, all less than 10 years old.

The story said police investigators ignored the evidence presented by the mother and instead accused her of having a mental disorder and even made her name public. Shortly after publishing it, the website could not be accessed.

Project Mutatuli has permitted other media to republish the story so that it gets a wider audience.

“Initially, the Project Multatuli team thought that this was due to inadequate server capacity, but on Oct. 7 morning, it was confirmed that there was a DDoS [distributed denial of service] attack,” the Alliance said.

DDoS refers to a digital attack by flooding the internet network traffic on a server using multiple attackers’ host computers. “We apologize. Our site was not able to be fully accessed because of a DDoS attack launched last night after the publication of the ‘All Three of My Children were Raped’ article in the #PercumaLaporPolisi [reporting to the police is useless] series,” Project Multatuli tweeted.

The report should be a reminder that they should take it seriously and see sexual violence as a major crime

The Alliance condemned the attack as “a form of silence on press freedom” and said that “the stamp of hoax or false information on confirmed news undermines public confidence in professional journalism.”

Evi Mariani, co-founder and editor in chief of projectmultatuli.org, stated that “being branded a hoax by people in power has become a risk for today’s journalists.”

But what was stifling, she said, was the police trying to publicize the name of the victims’ mother. “Where are your ethics?” she asked in a tweet.

Rusdi Hartono, the national police spokesman, said there is a possibility that the case will be reprocessed if there is new evidence.

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Azas Tigor Nainggolan, a lawyer with the Indonesian bishops’ Advocacy and Human Rights Forum, said the attack on the media reflects the lack of commitment from law enforcement to sexual abuse cases.

“The report should be a reminder that they should take it seriously and see sexual violence as a major crime," he said.

He recalled that he too had experienced a lack of seriousness when in 2020 he took up a sexual abuse case involving a church worker at St. Herkulanus Parish in Depok, West Java.

“The slow pace of the legal process has made other victims hesitant in seeking justice,” he said.

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