The Loyalty Lobby blog recently wrote a post, that apparently went viral, claiming that immigration lines in Bali were five hours long, that the airport had “Become A Total Hellhole” and warning people to stay away. He said people were crying and needed medical attention during their waits.
In fact it took the blogger who writes under the name Sebastian Powell 53 minutes to get through immigration, which is a long time when using a VIP fast track service as he apparently did after his Thai Airways flight from Bangkok. His story was apparently based on what one traveler told him about their experience.
Bali has been starved for tourism during the pandemic, with tight restrictions on entry to Indonesia. The story went viral and the government viewed it as harmful to their economic recovery. So they kicked the blogger out of the country suggesting it spread misinformation.
- They acknowledge longer than usual immigration lines
- But say the five and a half hour waits, and stories of passengers in distress, were a harmful exaggeration. Authorities say that wait times varied from 13 minutes to 2 hours on the day in question.
The person concerned only tells what people say, but he can’t be sure when it happened, where it happened…So, you can say this is a little bit of a makeup story…the person concerned is a German citizen, an international blogger, and previously a tourist. Based on his track record, based on CCTV footage at [Bali Airport], from the time he got out of the immigration clearance [area], was 53 minutes’.
Friday afternoon peak arrivals between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. are taking longer to process with “16 of the Immigration Counters are undergoing renovations ahead of the G20 Summit in November.”
The Loyalty Lobby story made a strong claim about an airport ‘hell hole.’ It was based, apparently, on a single anecdote that the government denies. And thinly sourced pieces that offend those in power are treated differently in some parts of the world than in others. In Saudi Arabia stories that the MBS doesn’t like can end up far worse for the author.
In the U.S. one thinks of such things as protected, but the federal government here has a history of going after journalists – and not just for actual or alleged violations of law. And that has happened under both Republicans and Democrats.
And Remember when the Biden administration appointed a disinformation czar? The idea struck many as creepy, and her TikToks were cringe-worthy – perhaps that was the appointment’s undoing.
— Nina Jankowicz 🇺🇦🇺🇸 (@wiczipedia) February 17, 2021
Social media companies censor or flag things as ‘disinformation’ or ‘misinformation’ all the time, throttling stories they deem false even that turn out to be true later. That’s been the case throughout the pandemic, and no matter what side you’re on you have to acknowledge that they got the Hunter Biden laptop story wrong before the election.
Since-removed, but last week Twitter fact-checked CDC, calling out the agency for misinformation on monkeypox.
I take a light hand in the comments of this site because I’m not confident in my ability to limit myself to deleting information that is clearly wrong. It’s easy to slip into then acting on comments that seem ‘unfair’ and what’s unfair is subjective – maybe it criticizes me too much! But deleting a comment here on this blog is a fairly minimal penalty.
Traveling to another country you’re subject to its laws, and in some countries the whims of those in power effectively replaces law. When you travel to the Mideast there are numerous activities in normal life that are officially illegal (in some places, homosexuality still or drinking outside of designated places without a permit). It’s fine to engage in prohibited activity until it’s not.
Hat tip to One Mile at a Time for this story who writes “This is a good reminder that it’s important to be accurate and not exaggerate or embellish when writing things online, especially when you’re a guest in another country.” That’s true, but it’s also a reminder of the consequences for angering those in power, whether with stories that are accurate or not. And a warning that we don’t want that to happen here – even for people who write something that turns out to be exaggerated.
Update: There are two ways to read the government action with respect to this blogger’s stay in Indonesia. I interpreted the government saying ‘must leave the country before expiration of visa’ as signifying an early revocation of stay (as opposed to having to leave when the visa expires). Another read is that the country is unwilling to renew the visa. Either way they’re saying they do not want the blogger in question present going forward.