Category Archives: freedom of speech



Yokyajarta is a renowned Indonesian city. A popular destination for tourists. One that is inhabited by  hospitable people. It’s a centre of tradition and modern science. Of open mindedness and religion. Where a guy I met, a Muslim, drank a cordial beer or two with me, a non believer, on our brand new friendship ( well, only if we call “Bintang”  genuine beer. Which is open to discussion…).

I hold the city in high esteem.

But  a student, Florence Sihombing, at the famous local university experienced some cracks in the paradise-like surface of Yokyakarta. Or just thought so. And wrote a tough critical review about it on social media. Yokyakarta according to her rant was inhabited by “poor, idiotic and uncivilized”  people. And she wanted it to be known by everyone.

Well, those addressed were not amused. They cried ‘slander’ or similar words. And Florence  got arrested. She apologized and promised not to do that again. But she stayed in custody. Her case became a hype on internet though. And her Alma Mater ran to her rescue. She was set free, but definitely is not off the hook. After saying sorry publicly, governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X asked his subjects to forgive the perpetrator. In spite of that for her the scandal is not over yet.

That is a pretty drastic reaction after some angry words by a ( probably slightly spoiled) young lady.

Overreaction actually. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, is a universal human right after all.

However apparently it’s content and limits are different in different places.

Florence had back luck living at a spot on the globe where the definition of slander ( and I guess libel, religious offense, pornography, obscenity etc also) is much less restricted than elsewhere. If, for instance, I would like to state that my small town’s citizens on average are, lets say, dull, behind the times, egoistic and materialistic followers of capitalistic consumerism, I could do so without the risk of being arrested.


Hey, by the way, this is an opportunity for me to vent some personal anger.

So, for the sake of solidarity with Florence and because of the urge I feel to at long last frankly speak my mind on my home town Zeist, I repeat that it’s


behind the times,



and crowded with petty capitalist consumers.

Timetravel in Aceh


“Aceh mulls Shariah for non-Muslims”, the JP * reported.

In an extremely obliging mood I could describe Shari-ah as just another judicial system. A very special one though.

To be honest I actually don’t know much about the finesse of Shari-ah. Except that – if only because it tends to apply as literally as possible the writings of almost one and a half millennium ago – it is at odds with modern society. And that it is hostile to the quintessence of humanistic values which constitute the foundations of modern justice. Core believers assume it to be the “Word of God” (Allah). In other words: beyond logic and reason.

Outdated, yet even today some societies have chosen Shari-ah. And peculiar as it may be, while Indonesia is a secular state after all, the province of Aceh is one of them.

Now there is the saying “when in Rome do as the Romans”. Which in this specific case of the Italian capital I support. It would mean living the life of La Grande Bellezza in style. Which can be grandiose.

Apparently the provincial authorities in Aceh think inhabitants and visitors of Aceh also should abide by their  Shariah-way-of-life . Dress code, conduct and all. Muslims and Kafir alike. Which of course for most of them (except the ones who come from peculiar parts of the world like Saudi Arab) will mean a time travel trip back to the early middle ages.

The difference with Rome is that if you ignore Roman Catholicism and don’t comply with the Roman ways and habits when you go there, you will not be fined, not be caned and not be arrested. However if you ignore their Shari-ah you will meet punishment in Aceh.

Not my cup of tea. And especially not my wife’s cup of tea. She as a matter of principle for instance only wears a headscarf in strong winds :).

So, it’s easy. While I hope to visit the wonderful country of Indonesia many times more, I will skip the most North-Western tip of the archipelago.

And hope one day they will come their senses there.

* Jakarta Post



Agression in Religion’s Name.

In Religion's Name

The Indonesian president likes to show off the country’s  good reputation in the world. Indeed he got overwhelming positive international feedback in the course of his administration. I’m sure that also during his imminent visit to Berlin and Budapest, Chancellor Angela Merkel and prime minister Viktor Orban ( who himself by the way is very ill at ease with human rights) will praise Indonesia as the economically flourishing democracy with world’s largest Muslim population.

But perhaps they will do so with notable less conviction and less enthusiasm than on previous occasions. RI’s image has been slightly tarnished lately. It’s human rights record is being frowned upon. Last Friday my own paper, NRC, wrote “Religious violence in Indonesia increases each year“. And -more importantly-  Thursday the Huffington Post “World”-section headed :”Indonesia:Religious Minorities Target of Rising Violence“. The report  Human Rights Watch published last Wednesday  has  significant publicity impact apparently.

Continue reading Agression in Religion’s Name.

Love and looming danger

mass organization bill 1

The EU ambassador in Jakarta wrote a love letter to  Indonesia on February the 14th. He apparently went cruising. Or perhaps he’s already courting the Garuda bird. He praises the great Indonesian people, the fascinating Indonesian diversity, the wonderful Indonesian products, the beautiful Indonesian landscapes and the ever improving Indonesian tourist infrastructure, including more and more golf courses.  Except for  golf courses I actually agree wholeheartedly with him :).

However I think true love shouldn’t be blind. Julian Wilson is a diplomat and as a diplomat he can’t publicly criticise Indonesia’s characteristics, developments or incidents. But I can. So let me  add my love and complete his sunny Valentine appraisal with a critical note.

Continue reading Love and looming danger

Freedom of the Press and Iriana’s seating order.


It’s unfortunate – but just natural- authorities don’t like being criticized. They, quite understandably,  are inclined to say:’Free press is fine – but shouldn’t poke it’s nose into my affairs and least of all tell me I’m wrong’. Therefore censorship and libel laws have been invented. If applied strictly they almost prohibit publications on incompetence, wrongdoings and abuses regarding particular persons and institutions.

Continue reading Freedom of the Press and Iriana’s seating order.