Indonesia: Critic of Covid-19 response arrested after phone hack and WhatsApp call to riot

On April 21, as Indonesia responded to Covid-19, police in Jakarta announced a ban on all May Day rallies.

The ban came ahead of planned protests against a bill on job creation which unions said would reduce labour rights and followed reports that police in Jakarta had launched an investigation into an anarcho-syndicalism group which they claimed aimed to cause social unrest.

This served as the backdrop to the arrest of public policy researcher Ravio Patra on the night of April 22.

Mr Patra, who had previously been critical of the Indonesian government and its response to Covid-19, was also previously Indonesia’s representative in the Open Government Partnership (SC OGP) Steering Committee.


Hours before his arrest, Mr Patra says he learned his phone and WhatsApp had been hacked when he was alerted to a message stating “You’ve registered your number on another phone”.

He notified people of this message, announced on Twitter that his WhatsApp had been hacked and warned friends and colleagues not to contact him on WhatsApp. 

However, despite this sequence of events, a message went out from his account encouraging people to take part in nationwide riots on April 30.

On seeing this message, Mr Patra immediately sought help from a human rights organisation which advised him to turn off his phone and go to a safe house.

But, on his way to the safe house, he was arrested by plain-clothed police on a street near his residence. Mr Patra was later released on the morning of April 24 after being incommunicado for three hours.


He also had difficulties securing access to a lawyer and was interrogated by police for approximately six hours. Mr Patra was detained for more than 24 hours.

KontraS, together with other human rights and civil liberties groups, has stated that it believes the phone hacking and arrest were related to Mr Patra’s criticisms of the Indonesian government online and on social media and, in particular, his recent criticism of the government’s handling of Covid-19.

KontraS has also warned that such practices could potentially happen to anyone who is critical of the Indonesian government.

Pic: KontraS

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