Indonesian anti-graft activists complain of digital attacks


FILE PHOTO: A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. Top U.S. fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline has shut its entire network after a cyber attack, the company said on Friday. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration

(Reuters) - Indonesian anti-corruption activists have suffered a surge of digital attacks, from the hacking of messaging accounts to the sabotage of a Zoom conference with pornography, and they say they fear they are being targeted for speaking out.

A spotlight was thrown on Indonesia's fight against corruption this month with the sacking of 75 officials from the anti-graft agency, which some campaign groups said appeared to be a bid to undermine their work.

The sackings, ostensibly over the officials' performances in a civil service exam, were later commuted to suspensions.

The non-governmental group Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said its members had faced digital harassment since May 17, when the messaging accounts on WhatsApp of six of its members became inaccessible as they were taking part in a video conference discussing the dismissals.

An unidentified hacker also streamed a porn film into the video conference, the group said.

ICW said in a statement it suspected that "parties against the strengthening of anti-corruption efforts" were behind the attack and urged law enforcement to investigate.

ICW did not say which specific groups it thought could be responsible.

ICW coordinator Adnan Topan Husodo told Reuters attempts to take over his and other accounts on WhatsApp and Telegram had continued in recent days.

Several former investigators from the KPK anti-corruption agency said they had faced similar attacks.

WhatsApp, Zoom, and Telegram did not immediately answer requests for comment.

An official in President Joko Widodo's office said it was a police matter. Police in the capital, Jakarta, declined to comment.

Campaigners say the state anti-corruption agency has become weaker under this president's administration but his office denies that.

The complaints of digital harassment follow similar cases last year involving activists and students in online seminars discussing human rights issues in the easternmost region of West Papua, where a low-level separatist insurgency has simmered for decades.

Some journalists have also been subjected to similar harassment.

Damar Juniarto, executive director of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), said his group had recorded 147 instances of digital attacks in Indonesia last year, a sharp increase from previous years.

(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo da Costa, Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Robert Birsel)

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