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4 April 2024

Free Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan from All Unjust Accusations

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, collectives, defenders, and advocates collectively urge the Jepara District Court, Central Java in Indonesia, to acquit environmental and human rights defender Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan, based in Karimunjawa, Indonesia, from all indictments.

Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan is an environmental human rights defender based in Indonesia and belonging to the Karimunjawa Struggle Movement. The aim of this movement is to protect those suffering from human rights violations resulting from illegal intensive shrimp farming practices, as well as advocating for the protection of the Karimunjawa National Park, a declared marine reserve spanning 1.100 square kilometres (425 square miles) and renowned today for its coral reefs. The existence of illegal intensive shrimp farms have caused waste discharges that are damaging the marine and coastal ecosystem, and created a clean water crisis. Environmental human rights defenders in Karimunjuwa have been actively raising awareness on the importance of protecting the marine and coastal conservations, as well as the safety of the residents in the area.

A supporter of illegal intensive shrimp farms filed a lawsuit against Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan, after he used the term “shrimp brain community” (or birdbrain) on his own personal Facebook account, as an idiom to criticize the supporters of illegal intensive shrimp farming.

As a consequence, Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan has been accused of hate speech under Article 28(2) in conjunction with Article 45a(2) of the Electronic and Information Transaction Law (ITE Law). Since 1 February 2024, Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan has undergone eleven hearings. During the last one on 19 March 2024, the chief prosecutor proposed a ten-month prison sentence, along with a fine of 5,000,000 rupiah (USD 316).

We strongly denounce the charges and legal efforts brought against Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan. Such prosecution epitomizes the plight of environmental advocates in Indonesia, who are compelled to face legal challenges merely for exercising their freedom of expression in defense of the environment while simultaneously preserving their main source of livelihood. The relentless criminalization of Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan starkly defies several of Indonesia’s international obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Instead of safeguarding people’s freedom of expression, the government has neglected hate speech charges against Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan. Indonesia has also blatantly disregarded its vow—made upon securing reelection as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2024 to 2026—to uphold the basic civil and political rights of all individuals.

As per Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence shall be prohibited by law. Nonetheless, the requirements that an act or expression must meet to qualify as incitement of hatred are stringent.

According to the Rabat Plan of Action, a fair judicial system must consider several factors, including the context, speaker, intent, content and form, the extent of the speech act, and the likelihood of harm. In Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan’s case, we are confident that these elements are not satisfied, considering the background against which the statement was made—safeguarding the right to a healthy environment—and the absence of imminent harm.

The ongoing criminalization of human rights and environmental defenders persists in Indonesia, despite the existence of an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) provision within the Environmental Protection and Management Act. This provision explicitly safeguards environmental advocates from criminal or civil litigation. However, its application remains infrequent, including in Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan’s case.

As the April 4th verdict hearing approaches, it is vital for all stakeholders, including the international community and the public, to demand Daniel’s exoneration and urge the Jepara District Court to acquit him. We shall not remain silent in the face of this threat. We stand in solidarity with Daniel. The pivotal role of Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan and other environmental defenders is crucial in preserving Karimunjawa’s natural heritage from environmentally negligent business expansion.

Based on our concern for these matters, we urge the Jepara District Court to:

Acquit the case of hate speech targeting environmental defender of Karimunjawa, Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan;

Instruct the plaintiff to restore the reputation of Daniel Frits Maurits Tangkilisan, who has been labeled as a blasphemer;

Improve transparency and provide reasonable timelines in adjudicating cases related to public interest;

Utilize anti-SLAPP mechanisms and environmentally conscious courts in handling environmental-related cases.

We also call on the Indonesian government to:

Demonstrate its commitment to freedom of expression by unequivocally stating that environmental defenders cannot be prosecuted for their activism;

Revoke problematic articles in the ITE Law and other repressive regulations immediately. The Implementation Guidelines of the ITE Law have failed in effective enforcement by the police and public prosecutors;

Prioritize and guarantee environmental protection and implement strong policies to ensure sustainability for future generations.

Furthermore, we summon the international community to actively monitor the criminalization of freedom of expression in Indonesia. In Indonesia, human rights defenders and environmental activists have become critical groups vulnerable to being targeted for criminalization using legal instruments that are open to multiple interpretations such as the ITE Law and the Criminal Code. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term 2024-2026, Indonesia must be held accountable for failing to ensure the respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights for its citizens in line with international human rights standards.



Amnesty International Indonesia

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

ATM – Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining-Philippines).

Community Resource Centre (CRC)


Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Franciscans International, Switzerland

Front Line Defenders

Greenpeace Southeast Asia

JPICC-CMSP Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission-Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines

KRuHA – People’s Coalition for the Right to Water

Legal Initiatives for Vietnam

Manushya Foundation

Mines,Minerals, & People , India

MiningWatch Canada

Open Net Korea

Protection International

Public Virtue Research Institute


Resister Indonesia


Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)

SPELL-Solidarity for People’s Education and Lifelong Learning

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia

The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) Indonesia

The Commission for The Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KontraS)

The William Gomes Podcast

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders