Censorship / Indonesia is investigating online comments made about Brunei’s sultan

By: Johanna Chisholm - Posted on: January 23, 2018 | Brunei

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah lodged a complaint with the Jakarta police force over a post on an Indonesian Instagram account, which they said “harmed and defamed” the monarch

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah waves to well-wishers during a procession as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on 5 October 2017 Photo: Rudolf Portillo/EPA

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has lodged a complaint against an Indonesian Instagram account posting ‘insulting’ comments about the autocratic leader, prompting for an official investigation to be opened up by the Jakarta police force.

The post in question is no longer available online, but it was described by Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono as containing photos of Sultan Bolkiah with accompanying text that was thought to be defamatory, the AP reported.

“There are some photos and comments about the Sultan of Brunei considered to have harmed and defamed him,” the AP reported Yuwono as saying at a press briefing in Jakarta.

Yuwono, who is himself a prince of Brunei’s royal family, confirmed that police will be conducting an official investigation into the matter, but provided no further details about the comments posted on the inflammatory account called ‘anti_hassanal’.

The account, as of Monday, had been shut down, South China Morning Post said.

Though this specific instance of attempting to police content posted online in a country outside their jurisdiction marks an uncommon moment for Brunei, it is not the first time the small Southeast Asian nation has attempted to silence online voices within their own country who are critical of the government.

In July 2017, a Brunei government employee who expressed frustrations in a Facebook post over a new policy that required additional steps for certifying food was Halal ended up being charged with violating the Sedition Act.

The Muslim-majority country has been ruled by the same royal monarchy for the past six centuries.

In 2014, the government made a decision – met with some pushback from international human rights groups – to implement Sharia law, making Brunei the first East Asian country to do so at the national level.

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