Ahok is convicted of insulting religion by saying people may use certain quranic verses for dishonest goals.

The thing is, not one people that hear his speech claims that he is offended by Ahok's speech.

However, his speech is videotaped. Some people claimed they are offended after watching the video.

That leads to the question.

How public your speech can be for Indonesian anti blasphemy laws to kick in? Say you talk in private to someone about religion. Say that someone record that. Say someone that watch the recording get offended. Does that count?

And if so, where in the law is that written?

A little background:


Ahok is a very effective governor. With much less budget he can make rivers clean, fix all roads, give universal healthcare, and funds the poor's education. Oh, he also eliminates corruption due to his ebudgeting. And he is very popular. Duh.

So, his political opponent use anti blasphemy laws to bring him down. Whether he blasphemes or not is very politically controversial. Not one that listen to him. So someone would seek his video, pretend to get offended, and sue him in court.

Hence, the current question. How public your speech should be to get jailed by this rubber flexible law. If you say something privately, and someone record it, and publicly show it, will you be jailed? If so, should you not talk bad about religion anywhere privately?

My concern is a hypothetical case. Say I talk something about religion. And I talk to a few people. Yet the talk is recorded and then latter people that want me death for totally unrelated reason use a youtube video and claim they are offended. If this is the case, then the law effectively prevent people from talking about religion in any place even when it's not public.

  • Side note: people outside of Indonesia are unlikely to know who "Ahok" is, and many of us can't just arbitrarily follow links. A couple of sentences of background would help.
    – cHao
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 20:40
  • For the benefit of potential answers: the OP and the author of the steemit post is the same individual. It is not independent cooperation of the views expressed.
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


The English version of the law says

By a maximum imprisonment of five years shall be punished for whosoever in public deliberately expresses their feelings or engages in actions that: a. in principle is hostile and considered as abuse or defamation of a religion embraced in Indonesia; b. has the intention that a person should not practice any religion at all that is based on belief in Almighty God.

from the Bahasa Indonesia law

Dipidana dengan pidana penjara selama-lamanya lima tahun barangsiapa dengan sengaja di muka umum mengeluarkan perasaan atau melakukan perbuatan: a. yang pada pokoknya bersifat permusuhan, penyalahgunaan atau penodaan terhadap suatu agama yang dianut di Indonesia; b. dengan maksud agar supaya orang tidak menganut agama apapun juga, yang bersendikan ke-Tuhanan Yang Maha Esa

The law does not define "public", so it would normally mean what it means in ordinary language (and that is not at all easy to figure out: it might be considered "public" if the expression was made to a single person). However, in this case, it was clearly in public (at a speech with about 100 people) that the statement was made.

The law does not say that those people who constituted "the public" that heard the statement have to have been offended. Rather, (first) the statement has to be made in public (it was), and second, it is "in principle is hostile and considered as abuse or defamation of a religion embraced in Indonesia". That's a matter for the court to sort out. It appears, for example, that Shi'a teachings are legally blasphemous (case of Tajul Muluk). Unfortunately, there aren't any accessible resources here pertaining to the court decisions, so it's not clear if there are any concrete limits on what could be found to be blasphemous. However, it is established law that deviant teachings are legaly blasphemous, see the 39 case synopsis and the end here.

  • I've heard a case of someone videotaping a christian trying to convert a muslim. Because the speech is videotaped, then it counts as public.
    – user4234
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 10:35
  • "so it would normally mean what it means in ordinary language": this would also be complicated by the fact that it's the meaning of the Indonesian word that would be in question, which could easily have different connotations or even entirely different senses from the English word.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 15:59
  • Yes, I know, and that is why I provided the Bahasa text: I have no position regarding the connotations of "di muka umum".
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 16:04
  • "Di muka umum" means "in the face of public", or publicly. I can't think of any connotation.
    – user4234
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 8:55

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