Garuda Indonesia social media ban: Airline attempts to ban photos on board

Jakarta: Garuda Indonesia's response to a critical video review has turned into an omnishambles. Now, two bloggers could be charged.

It all started when a pair video of bloggers, Rius Vernandes and Elwiyana Monica, used their YouTube channel to criticise the national airline's business class service aboard a Sydney-Denpasar flight.

In the video filmed on board, Rius – whose channel has 491,000 followers – tells viewers that passengers have been handed handwritten menus, and that the wine has run out.

"The passengers in front of me were given a menu like this. I was confused why we were given such a menu," he says.

Garuda Indonesia spokesman Ikhsan Rosas denied that business class passengers had received the handwritten list as an official menu, according to Kompas.com.

A flight attendant can be heard at one point in the video apologising for the "bad handwriting".

Rius then interviews a pair of Australian passengers whom he has overheard complaining about the lack of wine.

Paul and Christian, who do not give their last names, state that "the wine ran out, champagne, all wine. You come on a flight like this, business class, you expect nice wine".

"The staff are very embarrassed. There are 40 business class seats and they had three bottles of champagne, that's disappointing. Would we go with Garuda again? I would look at other airlines," Paul states.

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On Sunday, a day after the video was posted, an internal Garuda note was leaked – it flagged a ban on inflight photography.

It was widely mocked on social media. The social media account of the hugely successful ride-sharing service Grab and even the Indonesian President's son, Kaesang Pangarep, who owns a successful chain of restaurants, joined in the fun.

Come Tuesday, Garuda "appealed and requested" that passengers "not take images, be it photos, videos or [otherwise] document all activities during a flight".

But in a press release on the same day the airline said "passengers can still take pictures for personal interests such as taking selfie pictures while not disturbing the comfort or harming other passengers."

Meanwhile, the bloggers themselves could face defamation charges under the country's strict Electronic Transaction law. Police say they are investigating the matter and talking to witnesses.

The law carries penalties of up to six years' jail, or fines of up to 750 million Rupiah ($75,000) but it's not clear what sanctions the bloggers could face if they were charged.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia's Andreas Harsono said the law was "so rubbery it can used for whatever you want to do". He said it needed to be reformed.

with Karuni Rompies, Amilia Rosa

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