Whistleblower app breeds panic among Indonesian minorities

Smart Pakem app aims to keep a lid on activities of blacklisted religious groups by encouraging public to report on them
Whistleblower app breeds panic among Indonesian minorities

In this 2015 file photo, the Ahmadiyyah community in Bukit Duri, South Jakarta hold Friday prayers in the midst of a protest from groups who accused them being religious deviants. (Photo by Ryan Dagur/ucanews.com)

Indonesian minority groups fear a new smartphone app launched by the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office so the public can report people demonstrating "misguided" religious beliefs will worsen the persecution they face.

The Smart Pakem app features a list of prohibited groups including the Ahmadiyyah Muslim community, the Shia a branch of Islam at odds with Sunni Muslims; and the Gafatar, another persecuted Islamic group whose founder, Ahmad Mushaddeq, was jailed by the Indonesian government.

The Indonesian Ulema Council deems all three as "deviant" sects and the new app encourages the public to report on their activities, in a bid to make sure they toe the line.

Yendra Budiana, a spokesman for Indonesia's Ahmadiyyah community, said the app is counter-intuitive and makes them targets.

"Our activities have already been restricted. We cannot worship freely. Now this app will only exacerbate such discriminatory practices," he told ucanews.com on Nov. 27. 

Budiana also questioned the timing of the app's release, coming ahead of next year's presidential election at a time when rival parties and candidates are already gearing up for battle.

"It would be better of the prosecutor's office were to release an app for people to report on religious intolerance, social anarchy and drug abuse," he said. "Not one designed to trigger anxiety among the public, like this."

The Smart Pakem app, launched in Jakarta in November, can be downloaded for free from both Google Play and Apple App Store. (ucanews.com photo)


A Shia follower in Sampang, East Java, who requested anonymity said the app has made him fear for his safety.

"We were evacuated from our hometown six years ago after our community was attacked by Sunni Muslims, and we are still waiting for a resolution," said the man, who has been living in refugee camps since 2012.

"This app makes me give up hope that the government will ever guarantee our religious freedom," he added.

Rights groups have also panned the new app.

Muhammad Isnur, coordinator of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said faith groups and other minorities have long faced persecution in Indonesia, mostly because of the deliberate dissemination of misinformation.

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"It is not inconceivable that people may use this app to convey fake news, which could lead to violent attacks against some of these groups that are being reported on," he said.

Choirul Anam, commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission, said the state should not be interfering in citizens' private beliefs.

He described it as adding insult to injury for minority groups, whose religious are already effectively "blacklisted" in the country.

"The president must act to remove this app. He has a responsibility to make our nation more tolerant and dignified in accordance with international standards of human rights," he told ucanews.com.

Meanwhile, Mukri, head of the Information Center at the Attorney General's Office (AGO), told detik.com the app is one of their measures to control the activities of "deviant" groups.

Any group that is reported via the app will not automatically be disbanded, but the AGO will carry out an investigation based on the report.

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