The General Election Commission (KPU) has forecast that some 192 million eligible voters will participate in this democratic process that is expected to go fairly, democratically, and peacefully.
They will not merely determine the fate of incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate, Ma`ruf Amin, as well as the Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno pair but will also vote for legislators at the district/city, provincial, and national levels.
Preparations have been ongoing for this year`s parliamentary and presidential elections. In the near future, the two pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates will face several debates, organized by the KPU.
Amid these ongoing processes ahead of the presidential race, the Indonesian people have been continually challenged by the spread of fake news dominantly circulated through various social media platforms.
The proliferation of fake news, hate speech, and slander has obviously become a serious problem prior to this year`s parliamentary and presidential elections.
The last case of fake news, related to the upcoming presidential election that triggered concerns among the authorities and public, was about seven containers from China, with 10 million marked ballots.
On Wednesday (Jan 2), a rumor, circulated through social media platforms, claimed that seven containers from China, with millions of ballots that had been cast in favor of the Joko Widodo-Ma`ruf Amin pair, had arrived at Jakarta`s Tanjung Priok Port.
In response to this rumor, which was later proven to be fake, authorized persons from the KPU and the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) directly checked the reported containers on Wednesday evening.
The KPU commissioners confirmed that the rumor was untrue, and it was categorized as fake news. They also urged the police`s cyber crime unit personnel to track and arrest those, who had spread the fake news.
KPU Chairman Arief Budiman emphasized the need to arrest those spreading the hoaxes whom he believes are criminals intending to disrupt and delegitimize the convening of this year`s parliamentary and presidential elections.
Speaking in connection with the proliferation of this fake news, House of Representatives` Speaker Bambang Soesatyo urged the police to investigate the case, as he believed that it was aimed at destabilizing Indonesia.
"Continued efforts are being made to threaten the stability of Indonesia`s national security and public order. In the first week of January 2019, the endeavors have begun by spreading fake news on the seven containers from China," he cautioned.
The spread of this fake news cannot be tolerated, as it is intended to disrupt the presidential election process, he emphasized, adding that the national police should probe into the case and send the perpetrators to court.
According to Soesatyo, fake news on the marked ballots might also be intended to build a public perception that there were parties intending to commit electoral frauds for winning the parliamentary and presidential elections prior to April 17, 2019.
Hence, as the House speaker, he urged law enforcers to take stern actions against those spreading the hoaxes, and perpetrators of this brutal act.
The Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno pair`s National Campaign Team has supported the police to investigate the spread of fake news on seven containers from China, with millions of marked ballots for the 2019 Presidential Election.
Spokesman of the Prabowo-Sandiaga pair`s National Campaign Team Ahmad Riza Patria stated that since the start, he found it implausible to accept the news of millions of ballots being cast prior to the convening of the upcoming presidential election.
Hence, the Prabowo-Sandi camp also called on the police to conduct thorough investigation into all cases of fake news that have created public confusion.
The National Police remain committed and firm in handling the cases of fake news.
In combating the spread of fake news and information on the 2019 Presidential Election, the East Java police cyber crime unit, for instance, has shut down several thousand social media accounts.
"We have shut down thousands of social media accounts, including those from the platforms of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as they spread hoaxes," the East Java Police spokesman, Sen. Coms. Frans Barung Mangera, revealed.
On January 3, 2019, alone, the cyber crime unit personnel had taken down 32 social media accounts to halt the massive proliferation of hoaxes that are feared to affect those receiving the fake news.
From a religious perspective, the spread of fake news, hate speeches, and black campaigns runs counter to the true value of religions.
Hence, Head of the Indonesian Ulema Council Advisory Council Din Syamsuddin has also reminded all elements of society to prevent the spread of hate speech and hoaxes.
Instead, the people at large, particularly those eligible to vote in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, are encouraged to respect diversity in opinion among citizens, he suggested.
Editing by fardah