Indonesia: Digital attacks target at least 25 media workers

At least 25 journalists and media workers from Indonesian digital media outlet Narasi have been the target of malicious social media hacking attempts since September 23. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Indonesian affiliates, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) and SINDIKASI, in condemning this series of attacks and urges the authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation.

Protestors hold posters during an AJI Surabaya demonstration against threats and harassment suffered by journalists and media workers in September, 2021 Credit: AJI Surabaya

According to Narasi sources, hacking attempts were first discovered on September 24 after one of the outlet’s producers received a suspicious WhatsApp message. Despite not clicking on the attached link, the producer lost control of his WhatsApp account and phone number. Sources from the station said the hacking began as early as September 23.

As of September 26, at least 25 Narasi staff have had their devices and social media accounts hacked. According to station sources, journalists, media workers, and outlet staff lost access to their social media accounts.

While the motive behind these attacks remains unknown, a Narasi spokesperson alleged the centralised and coordinated nature of the attack indicated the news outlet had been specifically targeted.

Indonesia has seen a recent rise in online attacks against journalists, media workers and advocacy groups. In February, AJI chairman, Sasmito Madrim, was the victim of a social media hack after receiving a similar WhatsApp message. Several human rights activists, including legal expert Bivitri Susanti and Aliansi Mahasiswa Indonesia (Indonesian Student Alliance), have also been targeted by digital attacks in 2022. However, the attack against Narasi staff is the largest case of hacking against media workers in Indonesia within the last four years.

The incident has been condemned by several independent media organisations, including the Committee of Journalist Safety (KKJ). The committee, which includes IFJ affiliates AJI and SINDIKASI, has called on law enforcement to properly investigate the incident and urged the Indonesian government to condemn the incident as an attack on human rights.  

AJI Chairman, Sasmito Madrim, said: “Police must conduct a thorough investigation into this attack against 25 Narasi editorial crew. Ignoring attacks on journalists, media workers and news outlets will further convince people of the government’s involvement in this attack”

SINDIKASI said: “We call for media companies, media organisations, and other media workers’ organisations to consider this issue seriously. Therefore, they should prepare media workers by enhancing their capacities to mitigate digital attacks.”

The IFJ said: “The IFJ condemns the highly concerning cyber-attacks against Narasi staff and other media workers in Indonesia. The Indonesian government and authorities must do more to protect journalists and media workers and ensure that those committing online attacks are properly investigated and held accountable.

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram