January 18, 2024
JAKARTA – A number of digital billboard advertisements featuring presidential candidate Anies Baswedan that were paid for by a group of volunteers have been mysteriously taken down ahead of schedule, stoking concerns of foul play from netizens, while Anies’ camp has threatened to take legal action.
The Olppaemi Project, an Anies fan group on X, kick-started a fundraiser campaign on Jan. 5 for the former Jakarta governor to be featured in digital ads, in a nod to a tradition among K-Pop fans to pay for digital billboard ads for their favorite idol on their birthday.
Anies has in recent weeks been garnering attention among Indonesian K-pop fans on social media, where several fan accounts have popped up, evoking the style of pages dedicated to K-pop idols. This came not long after his live-streaming debut on popular video-sharing platform TikTok in late December, during which many K-pop fans drew similarities between Anies and how K-pop idols would talk to their fans on live streams.
Having garnered Rp 90 million (US$5,757) in donations as of last week, the Olppaemi Project pitched some of the ads on LED screens in front of the Graha Mandiri building in Central Jakarta, the Grand Metropolitan Mall in Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta and in Medan, North Sumatra.
While these ads were scheduled to remain live until Jan. 21, the ads in Jakarta and Bekasi were mysteriously taken down just hours after they went live on Monday due to what the Olppaemi Project claimed to be “circumstances beyond our control”.
The group later said on Tuesday that it was discussing the matter with the relevant authorities, including with the advertising agency operating the digital billboards. It also announced that a new ad had since gone live in Surabaya, East Java.
The sudden removal of the digital ads in Jakarta and Bekasi spawned the hashtag #AniesDeserveBetter on X, as many social media users condemned the sudden removal, with some speculating that regional administrations may have played a part in the removal.
Anies took to X on Monday to encourage the Olppaemi Project to remain positive. “[I’d like to give my] appreciation for all those who have carried out and supported this extraordinary initiative, even though the results did not turn out the way we expected,” he said.
Anies’ campaign team, however, has threatened to take legal action.
“In a democracy, we have to report things that have violated the rules. So, our legal division will lodge a report with the KPU [General Elections Commission] and Bawaslu [Elections Supervisory Agency],” campaign manager Syaugi Alaydrus said on Tuesday, as quoted by kompas.com.
He also called on the public to remain vigilant of any other potential campaign violations or removal of campaign materials, saying that everyone needed to play their role in monitoring election campaigns and building a fair election.
While it remains unclear whether or not the Anies-Muhaimin Iskandar campaign team has lodged its report, Bawaslu chair Rahmat Bagja said the agency would summon representatives from the Jakarta and Bekasi administrations and all related parties to clarify the removal of the ads.
“We will take a look at the permits [for the ads]. Regional administrations need to be neutral by giving all election contenders equal opportunities to campaign,” Rahmat said on Tuesday, as quoted by kompas.com.
The Jakarta administration deflected the blame for the ads’ sudden removal, saying that the right to manage the digital billboards fell solely on the management of the Graha Mandiri building or on private advertising companies.
This is not the first time that Anies’ camp has lamented obstacles in campaigning, including when numerous events of his, such as his trademark discussion called Desak Anies (challenge Anies), were canceled due to revoked permits.