Jakarta probing online claims about containers filled with ballots for President Joko Widodo

Claims have been circulating on social media that seven containers from China have been filled with votes for President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in the presidential elections.
Claims have been circulating on social media that seven containers from China have been filled with votes for President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in the presidential elections.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesian authorities are investigating claims on social media about containers stuffed with cast ballots for April's election being kept in Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta.

Claims have been circulating on the likes of Twitter and WhatsApp that seven containers from China have been filled with votes for President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in the presidential elections, along with his running mate Ma'aruf Amin.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo told reporters on Thursday (Jan 3) that he has asked the National Police Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim) to find the parties responsible for the misinformation.

This was a "serious matter", said Mr Tjahjo, pointing out that hoaxes affect public opinion, and could disrupt the process of democracy.

General Election Commission (KPU) chairman Arief Budiman said that checks with bodies such as the Directorate General of Customs and Excise, and the Election Supervisory Body, did not support talk of the cast ballots.

A surprise inspection of the port was conducted on Wednesday night. No such containers were found.

Mr Joko has called it a hoax, stating: "The ballots have not yet been printed."

He urged the public not to spread hoaxes ahead of the April polls, saying: "Let us avoid such blasphemy. We are close to the elections. We should share anything related to politics in a peaceful way, so that there are no negative assumptions among the public."

His opponent's camp has supported a probe into the hoax.

It has "created public confusion", noted Mr Ahmad Riza Patria, spokesman for the campaign team of presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Sandiaga Uno.

Indonesia will have to fight a wave of misinformation and online hate speech playing on racial and religious fault lines in the run-up to the April polls.

The 2014 presidential elections saw rumours spreading on social media, claiming that Mr Joko - a Javanese Muslim - was actually a Chinese Christian.

The cyber crime unit of the East Java Police said it has in the past few months shut down thousands of social media accounts that have been spreading misinformation on the upcoming election, including allegations that about 10 million Chinese citizens were on the final register of voters for the polls.