Prita Mulyasari: the new online face of Indonesia
Anyone with a basic understanding of the blogosphere in Indonesia will be familiar with its sheer unpredictability – not for nothing have the Indonesians been labelled the ‘Italians of Asia’. (Even if a quick search to validate this statement reveals that the Koreans, Philippinos and Indians have all been painted with the same brush).
Like the Italians, Indonesians tend to be tremendously garrulous. In my experience, the first twenty minutes of most business meetings is invariably spent talking and laughing about anything other than the matter on hand, which can make it a hugely enjoyable – if sometimes frustrating – place to get things done.
So it is noteworthy that Prita Mulyasari, the housewife whose mistreatment at the hands of a Jakarta hospital and subsequent email complaint led to her imprisonment for alleged defamation, has now won her freedom in the Supreme Court.
In a country in which corruption is rife and the rule of law flaky at best, Prita’s victory is viewed as a major consumer rights victory.
The case was also notable for the role that social media played in her defence, raising funds for her bail, mobilising thousands of supporters into the streets and forcing the issue onto the front pages of the media, to the extent that the story was taken up by candidates in the 2009 Presidential Election.
In a country where online complaints and accusations are routine, people will view Prita’s victory as encouragement to pursue their cause – warranted or otherwise – to the bitter end, making life potentially awkward to organisations looking to engage with customers and other stakeholders on the Internet and through social media.
Companies in Indonesia should take not, and start getting properly prepared in short order.