Woman acquitted of online defamation after court found plaintiff actually owed her money

In a rare victory against the controversial Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), a woman who was sued for online defamation has been acquitted after the court found her accusation against the plaintiff to be true.

Febi Nur Amelia breathed a sigh of relief at the Medan District Court yesterday after the court found her not guilty of defaming local politician Fitriani Manurung. Fitriani previously sued Febi for posting a photo on Instagram alleging that the former owed her IDR70 million (US$5,104). 

The prosecution’s two-year sentence demand for Febi was thrown away by the court after it found sufficient proof that Fitriani did actually owe Febi the money, thereby absolving the latter of defamation charges.

“The plaintiff was the one who was behaving inappropriately in that she did not pay her debt and felt as though she had no debt,” judge Sri Wahyuni said during the sentencing hearing yesterday.

According to reports, Febi claimed she lent Fitriani the money in December 2016, which she wired to her husband, who holds the rank of Grand Commissioner (Kombes). In 2017, Febi said she demanded her money back, but Fitriani said she wasn’t able to pay her back and eventually blocked her on WhatsApp.

Febi said she then tried to reach Fitriani via a DM on Instagram, but the message was ignored. In February 2019, Febi tagged Fitriani in an Instagram post that contained the caption, “I remember madam Kombes owes me IDR70 million. Please ma’am, pay your debt that’s been left unpaid for years.”

Fitriani, a politician for the ruling PDI-P party, publicly maintained that she had no outstanding debt to Febi.

UU ITE has long been criticized as a tool used by those in power to silence criticism against them. A study released last year found that the law has been invoked more times than ever in recent years.

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