11 September 2009

Prita Mulyasari -- Defamation -- The Retrial...

The Prita Mulyasari defamation case, or perhaps "saga" is a better word, continues with the retrial commencing in the Tangerang District Court yesterday.

This case really does not contain enough legal issues of consequence for the prosecution to be pursuing this as some sort of test case for the provisions on defamation in the Information and Electronic Transactions Law or for that matter the overlap of those provisions with the ones contained in the Indonesian Criminal Code.

The saga is probably worth a PhD thesis, maybe it could be mine.

Brett over at Spruiked is always a man on a mission, and the Prita case is one he is quite vocal about.

If anything the case highlights the severe need for ongoing or continuing legal education in order to ensure that all legal practitioners are up-to-date with current legal developments and practice. Simply, this was not the case to run as a test case. Even more interesting is that in the retrial the prosecution has decided to lead with expert testimony from a linguist who admits on the stand that he has no real conceptual understanding of what defamation is in the legal sense.

The expert testimony of the linguist was simplistic at best; the contents of the email could be considered defamatory because there was a sentence that questioned the professionalism and politeness of the hospital staff. Ah, OK. But tell me you have more!

The idea that doctors can be unprofessional and hospital staff can be rude and impolite is hardly a revelation. There are probably more people floating round in the world who have a bad story to tell about the way they were treated in a hospital than those that have a good story to tell.

A visit to a few Australian websites and a good read of some of the news there would highlight that it is not uncommon for hospitals to be criticized for their poor service and professionalism. There have been a spate of recent cases over the last few years of women miscarrying in hospital toilets as they were made to wait for treatment.

The idea that Prita was treated unprofessionally and impolitely is not some kind of out of the ordinary shocking development. In any event, and as I have always maintained, even if by some magical alignment of the stars her email was defamatory, then the best course of action to defend the charge would be that the statements contained in the email are the truth.

The reality here is that Prita was diagnosed with dengue fever at Omni and after becoming fed up with the treatment she was receiving at Omni, checked herself out and into another hospital where she was diagnosed with mumps, treated and subsequently got well. At least, this is how I understand it. I am sure that if that is an incorrect understanding someone will inform me of that. And, then I will make a note here (as a postscript).

The fact of the matter is when you are sick and you go to the doctor you are expecting that the doctor will get the diagnosis right and treat you. A misdiagnosis can sometimes happen but all the same a misdiagnosis is a misdiagnosis and in that sense it is not unreasonable to question the professionalism of the doctor involved.


Brett said...

Thanks for the quote, Rob. Where do you find the time to write all this?! Beautifully done. Again.

Jakartass said...

I have had a bad experience of hospital treatment and have long been suspicious of the medical profession which here, as elsewhere, is increasingly in thrall to pharmaceutical companies.

When I had mumps last year I got better without the aid of a doctor. A browse on the internet followed by a trip to the local pharmacy got me the required medication.

The Prita case is going to have a similar effect. Whether she defamed anyone or not is almost immaterial. Omni's big mistake is in not admitting that they made one in the first place. Who is going to trust their 'services' now?

Rob Baiton said...


No dramas.

It is an interesting case and therefore one makes time :D That said, I note that you post pretty regularly as well, so I was wondering where you find the time...


Yep, PR nightmare for Omni from start to finish, whenever the finish might be.

Self-medication? The internet is a powerful information tool but I am still yet to be convinced that I am always read the God's honest truth. So, a headache some self-medication no dramas. But, if it seems a little more serious I still risk a doctor.

Don't know about immaterial. Defamation is defamation and it is illegal. The question for me, as I noted in the post, why this case and why push so hard?

Rob Baiton said...

Clarification, "Don't know about immaterial. Defamation is defamation and it is illegal."

Assuming one cannot prove a defense for having committed the offense. :D

Brett said...

Ah, but my posts are nowhere near the quality of yours.

If there is anything that you would like to repost on the HAKItree blog, please let me know. All your posts about Prita, the Film Law, UU ITE... would all be suitable. Have a look at hakitree.com and let me know. Cheers

Rob Baiton said...


I have already looked at HAKItree when you first published about it.

Anything you want to borrow to post there, feel free. Just drop me a line to let me know (just so I can have an ego moment :D).