Indonesian woman who recorded boss' lewd call jailed

Ms Nuril Maknun's boss accused her of criminal defamation when he learnt of the recording. She was charged with distributing obscene material. The trial court cleared her but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict.
Ms Nuril Maknun's boss accused her of criminal defamation when he learnt of the recording. She was charged with distributing obscene material. The trial court cleared her but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LABUAPI, Indonesia • Ms Nuril Maknun, a bookkeeper at a high school in Indonesia, faced constant harassment from her boss, the principal.

At school, he often described his sex life and pressured her to have an affair. After work, he would call her and continue his obscene monologues.

"That kind of conversation happened so often I couldn't even count," Ms Nuril said in a recent interview.

After months of harassment, she recorded one of the calls. The result: She lost her job and went to jail. Meanwhile, his career has flourished.

Ms Nuril's case, which is now before Indonesia's Supreme Court, has become a public example of the country's failure to protect women from sexual harassment, as well as the notoriously capricious nature of its judicial system.

Advocates for women say that unwanted sexual advances and obscene remarks are depressingly common in Indonesian workplaces, and that women have little recourse when subjected to them.

Ms Nuril, a 40-year-old mother of three, grew up on Lombok, an island east of Bali. In 2010, she got a temporary job helping with accounting at Senior High School Seven Mataram in Lombok's provincial capital.

She says her troubles began in 2013 with the arrival of a new principal, Muslim, who goes by one name as many Indonesians do.

SELF PROTECTION

She recorded it for her own protection. She kept it for so long. Even when it spread, it was not she who distributed it.

MS NURIL'S LAWYER JOKO JUMADI, on why she made the recording and that she played no role in spreading it.

In April of that year, according to Ms Nuril, Mr Muslim began talking to her frequently in lewd terms, both in person and on the phone. She recorded one of his phone calls in August 2013.

She played the recording for her husband and a colleague.

Months later, a teacher who had learnt of the recording copied it from Ms Nuril's phone while the latter was in another room.

Ms Nuril said that fewer than a dozen people initially heard the recording, and that it was more than a year before Mr Muslim learnt of its existence. She said he offered to extend her contract if she deleted the recording. When she refused, she said, he fired her.

Three months after firing Ms Nuril, the principal went to the police and accused her of criminal defamation. The police interrogated Ms Nuril half a dozen times before arresting her in March 2017. Eventually, prosecutors charged her with distributing obscene material, not defamation.

Ms Nuril spent two months in a Lombok jail. At her trial, teachers from the school testified that they, not Ms Nuril, were the ones who had taken the recording from her phone and distributed it.

 

"She recorded it for her own protection," said her lawyer, Mr Joko Jumadi. "She kept it for so long. Even when it spread, it was not she who distributed it."

The trial court found Ms Nuril not guilty. But that was not the end.

In Indonesia, prosecutors can appeal an acquittal. They took her case to the Supreme Court, where the justices reversed the verdict in November. The three-judge panel sentenced her to six months in jail.

There was public outrage in response to the ruling. The office of the attorney-general said any punishment would be delayed until Ms Nuril's appeal, which her lawyer filed last week, was resolved.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2019, with the headline 'Indonesian woman who recorded boss' lewd call jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe