Saturday, 6 June 2009

From a cyber letter into a real prison

A letter sent through the internet can lead you into the prison. The case of Prita Mulyasari, a mother with two little children, has proven that a personal letter through the internet could be a subject of the 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions, article 27.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009, the Jakarta Post posted "Don't blame Internet law for Prita's detention: Official"
The legal adviser for the communications and information minister, Edmon Makarim, said Wednesday the libel case implicating housewife Prita Mulyasari could not justify calls for the revocation of the 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions due to suspicion that it would stifle freedom of speech.

Prita is charged with Article 27 of the law after she sent an email containing her complaint about services at Omni International Hospital Alam Sutera in Tangerang, Banten.

“Don't judge the law if you don't know exactly what happened. The trial has not even started yet,” Edmon told a seminar at University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java.

“Who knows if there was a conspiracy behind the case? We know that the hospital business today is full of competition,” he added.

“I don't want to comment on Prita's particular case. The point is, if you transmit slander through the Internet, you are subject to criminal charges,” Edmon said. (bbs)

Prita was already in prison since May 13, 2009 (printed Kompas, June 4, 2009 "Kronologi Kasus Prita Mulyasari"). So, from May 13 to June 3, she was already in prison charges to the civil law. Which one? I don't really know, but to enter a prison (before the whole trial finished) should only be possible if the charges will put her more than five years in jail. The UU ITE charges is six years, so this is the law that put her into prison before her temporary released on June 3rd.

According to printed daily Kompas, the story started from August 7, 2009 at 20.30 WIB when Prita went to the emergency room of an international hospital in Alam Sutra, Serpong. She was having a fever for 3 days. Then, had her blood checked and the result was a very low thrombocyt, 27.000 per ul. She was diagnosed as DBD (dengue fever) and need to go for inhouse treatment in the hospital.

The problem lied in the result of the thrombocyt test, it was revised as 181.000 per ul, and the hospital could not produced the test result of the first informed 27.000 per ul. On August 12, Prita left the hospital and went into another hospital. I think the detail is not very important, if Prita accused the first hospital that her treatment there made her suffered and almost lost her sight, it should be proven by the medical record. Yet, she (and her family) agreed to be hospitalized in that hospital was probably on the basic of the low result of her thrombocyt test. They don't have the chance to think of other alternative. I think by spending five days in the hospital, they have shown that they trusted the hospital and their medical team. It turned out that they received only disappointment, in term of medical status, and in the communication with the medical team. Lots of hospital cases was actually made Indonesians prefer to go to the hospitals abroad. It is no use using "international" brand name if the service is not international class.

The story became more complicated as we do not know if the mail used as the evidence of this case is the one posted by Prita herself. She admitted sending a personal letter to her friends via e-mail, but how it ended up in the mail-listers' box was not even clear. A letter shown in was already edited, but the letter that was discussed in kaskus was still unedited.

As a citizen reporter, I think it is not very important who posted the letter. It is the right of the citizen to know such a bad treatment in an international health service. The important thing is that the letter was written by the person who experienced the hospital treatment. It is urgent that we know what was happening. I also prefer the real letter as it conveys names and position clearly. So I don't need to make a wrong guessing game, and it also helps me to know the real situation. If it is not true, then why don't the hospital write their own version of the story in the comment section? That's how a patient feel after the treatment. It is the task of its customer service to provide service that will make the patient and her family feel the essence of being a customer.

I think I would also feel being cheated if I was told that my test result was very low, and after signing the agreement to be hospitalized I could never assess that result test again. Did the hospital admit that their employee gave wrong information? How would they reacted if it happens to an expatriate or a foreign visitor?

I know that Dengue Fever needs some days before a doctor could really point it out as the reason of illness, but the thrombocyt result is important. Low thrombocyt could need donor. My husband had thrombocyt transfusion when he was having Dengue Fever. Yet, my brothers survived it in the 70s when the treatment is limited to help the body healed itself (they already had blood came in their urine and from the nose, we thought they won't survive it). My cousin was having Dengue without being hospitalized, but still under a doctor's control.

I think Prita and her family had the reason to be upset, and voicing it out as readers' letters or as a blog is nothing to do with disgracing a name of an institution. It should be viewed as a critic, and answered by giving better treatment to other patients. Using the ITE Law as the basic charges for treating a costumer complain is like threatening citizen from speaking out our critic, not only to private institution but also to the government. That is how we, as blogger, see that UU ITE is not really serving the people. May be the intention when composing it is good, but the implementation could be used wrongly and made people afraid to voice out their voices. Yes, the cyber world could bring you into the real prison...even if your cyber letter intended to warn people for a good reason!

A senior high school student contributed the news about the hospital intention to file a law suit in wikimu last year, see it here. The link in the article came from the readers' letter section in

Prita spent quite some time in the prison before her temporary release, so I do think that journalists did not really continue covering the story. Without the cyber world this story won't be existed, but as citizen we will also loose our chance to know the news that we need to know. Without the cyber networking, we don't have the strength to voice out our support.

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