- Posted June 15, 2014 by
American’s Angry Tweet May Result in Deportation
SURAKARTA, CENTRAL JAVA, INDONESIA, JUNE 13 - An American's angry tweet about Indonesia's immigration service did not sit well with government officials, who summoned him to their offices and arrested him. American travel blogger Derek Freal is currently incarcerated in an immigration detention facility awaiting deportation for posting a tweet that apparently offended immigration officials, according to Freal on his travel website The Holidaze.
"It was a tweet that I knew was wrong and deleted five minutes later," he wrote. "While I don’t want to repeat myself, let me just put it this way: I used the F word and kantor imigrasi (immigration office) in a sentence and threatened to never return to Indonesia. This was of course an empty threat, as anyone who knows me...knows that I love Indonesia...However in my aggravated state that day I didn’t think, I just hit ‘tweet’ — and now I am paying the price." Freal, a frequent visitor to Indonesia, told iReport that after attempting to extend his tourist visa at an immigration office in a small city and being subjected to requirements he had not previously been required to meet, he fired off the angry tweet and quickly deleted it. He planned on going to a different immigration office in a larger city that he was sure would approve his extension, but he never got that far.
While en route back from Jakarta the following week he was alerted by friends that three immigration officials were at his house and his girlfriend's house searching for him. "Soon after that I received a call from immigration, telling me I needed to return to their office for a hearing. Immediately my heart sank. I knew this was about my deleted tweet. At 8:30am on June 6 he arrived at the immigration office in Surakarta and was interrogated until 5:30pm. He reports officials showed him a photograph of his tweet and asked if he had written it. He admitted that he had, and was incarcerated that evening.
He is currently still in custody. Freal told iReport that officials instructed him to buy a plane ticket to any country. He purchased a ticket to Singapore, leaving in two days time. On the day he was supposed to travel he was told he could not go to Singapore because he might be refused entry and sent back to Indonesia. He was instructed to buy a new ticket to somewhere else.
Immigration Tipped Off
The offending tweet was only live on Twitter for five minutes, according to Freal, which leads one to wonder how Indonesian immigration officials spotted it. Freal believes they were tipped off by an associate of his: Jenny Jusuf, an Indonesian author he was working with on a project when they had a falling out that ended their professional relationship. He believes she took a screen shot during the five minutes it was on Twitter and sent it to immigration. Jusuf denied his claim. "[Immigration] did not find out about the F-tweet from me. Derek published the tweets during midday, when most Indonesians were active on Twitter. I RT-ed the tweet, without mentioning Kantor Imigrasi [the Immigration Office], and many other Twitter users did the same. I did mention Kantor Imigrasi in one of my tweets later that day, but it was *not* about the F-word. I attached a screenshot in which Derek was involved in a conversation with some Indonesians and clearly stated that he was trying to live in Indonesia using tourist visa, to which one of the responders said: it's illegal. That was the screenshot I sent to Kantor Imigrasi. Few days later, still overstaying his tourist visa, Derek went to Jakarta for a modeling audition and tweeted about it.” Engaging in paid employment, including modelling, is not allowed on a tourist visa. However, Freal reported to iReport he was not asked questions about living or working in the country.
Selective Enforcement of Regulations
Freal told iReport that since he had previously overstayed his visa numerous times and been simply required to pay a fine, he believes immigration officials are using it as an excuse to eject him from the country, when their real issue is his tweet. He may be right; in March two Australian journalists were deported for being on the wrong visa while covering a controversial issue in Indonesia. Further, it doesn’t appear to be common practice to send three agents out to find a single overstaying tourist. The Indonesian Embassy in Manila did not respond to a request for comment by the time this story was filed.
While governments have a long history denying entry to people for things they say and do (John Lennon was denied entry to the USA in 1969 for his anti-war and anti-Nixon statements/activities), social media is new ground. The Daily Mail reported in 2012 on a UK couple who were denied entry upon arrival to the USA for tweeting a perceived threat and forced to leave the following day, however Freal may be the first case of a foreign tourist who had been admitted to the country, then was later arrested and deported for something he tweeted.