Indonesia urges Asean to harness Twitter, Facebook
NUSA DUA—Asean must maximize the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media to engage the region’s citizens, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Tuesday.
Speaking to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers on the island of Bali, Yudhoyono expressed support for the establishment of an Asean blogger community.
“For the first time, and in contrast to just four decades ago, we are facing a reality where the frequency and depth of contacts between our citizens — through cable television, email, Twitter, Facebook — far exceed the formal contacts between government officials,” he said.
“Indonesia, being the world’s second largest Facebook nation and third largest for Twitter, knows this very well.”
Asean must “get into the act” and be “creative and open-minded in harnessing the power of technology to promote people-to-people contact,” he said.
“The establishment of an Asean blogger community is one innovative idea, and more should follow.”
Asean, with nearly 600 million people, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The more developed member-states such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have witnessed explosive growth in the use of social networking and microblogging sites even if overall Internet penetration remains low.
Yudhoyono often sends mixed messages about free expression and social media.
The centrist ex-general has warned that the “Internet frenzy” is destroying traditional values, has backed a crackdown on porn websites and has lashed out at people who “use online media to spread lies” about corruption.
Human rights activists criticize Yudhoyono for approving a 2008 law which sets tough penalties for online defamation, saying it has been used to intimidate critics and whistle-blowers.
A Human Rights Watch report released last year cited the example of Prita Mulyasari, a mother-of-two who was jailed for three weeks and spent a year in litigation for writing emails to friends about poor hospital treatment.
A Facebook support group garnered more than 100,000 members, and a court eventually threw out the case against her. But the supreme court recently reinstated her conviction and she is now serving six months of probation.