American Deported from Indonesia Due to Angry Tweet

Tony Ahn
Tony Ahn Chief Digital Architect, Tony Ahn & Co.

Posted on June 20th 2014

American Deported from Indonesia Due to Angry Tweet

SURAKARTA, CENTRAL JAVA, INDONESIA, JUNE 20 - An American's angry tweet about Indonesia's immigration service resulted in his arrest and deportation. American travel blogger Derek Freal was 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. He is being deported today, having crowdfunded his return plane ticket.

Freal's Deleted Tweet

"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, said 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 tipped off 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 reported that officials showed him a photograph of his Twitter profile and asked if that was him. Then they produced a screenshot of his tweet and asked if he had written it. He admitted that he had, and was incarcerated.

He is currently en route to Austin, Texas. Freal said 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. He informed the world that he was being released today.

Without enough money to purchase another ticket, Freal raised $1200 through gofundme.com, with a campaign titled "Save Me from Indonesian Jail." On the campaign page his friend explained "Derek is stuck in the immigration center in Indonesia and is being deported. He does not have enough money to go home. The goverment said in a matter of days if he does not get the money they will send him to actual jail. The embassy said once he goes to jail it will be harder to get him."

Selective Enforcement of Regulations
Freal said 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 a legal basis to eject him from the country, when their real agenda is to punish him for 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. 

New Territory?
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)--even if not illegal--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 is the first known case of a foreign tourist who had been admitted to the country, then was later arrested and deported for something he tweeted.

Tony Ahn

Tony Ahn

Chief Digital Architect, Tony Ahn & Co.

Tony Ahn’s unique blend of education and experience makes him one of the most highly sought after social media evangelists in Southeast Asia.

Tony’s baccalaureate degree focused on ethnography, a branch of anthropology that studies and describes contemporary human cultures. Ethnographers capture and communicate “webs of meaning,” defining the interworking of cultures from an inside perspective. This equips Tony with a deep understanding of the culture of social media networks and communities.

Tony holds a master’s degree in counseling from Penn State University, giving him rich insights into human motivation and behavior. Simply put, Tony knows what consumers want and why. He has used this knowledge to provide marketing and consulting to multinational brands and major local brands.

In 2009, Tony reunited with his baccalaureate discipline when he was hired as CEO of a Manila-based management consulting firm that utilized anthropologists to study consumer behavior. A year later he poured his knowledge of ethnography, human motivation, and social media into Sterling Rep Social Media and Reputation Management, the first independent reputation management agency in the Philippines, which he directed until it was acquired by one of the largest public relations firms in the country. In 2012, Tony Ahn opened the doors on digital public relations agency Tony Ahn & Co., which he directs today. He writes a column on digital PR for Adobo Magazine and lectures on the same subject at De La Salle University.

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