Indonesia: Student journalists harassed for investigative reporting

Members of student press organisation LPM Lintas, at the State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN) Ambon, have faced ongoing threats and intimation after publishing an investigative story on sexual harassment. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, urge the university’s executive to end all forms of intimidation against the student journalists and respect press freedom.

On March 14, the Indonesian student press organisation, LPM Lintas at the State Institute for Islamic Studies Ambon, published an investigative story on sexual harassment at the university. Credit: LPM Lintas

On March 14, LPM Lintas published an investigative story on sexual harassment at the university from 2015 to 2021, in an article titled ‘IAIN Ambon prone to sexual harassment’. The piece gathered the stories of 32 victims of sexual assault, including 25 females and seven males, and mentioned allegations of sexual offences involving lecturers, staff, students, and alumni.

Following the publication, on March 15, Nurdin Kaisupy, a student journalist who was a part of the investigative team, and Muh. Febrianto, a layout designer, were punched at the LPM Lintas office on March 15, by assailants suspected of being family members of a lecturer. The assailants also smashed the office’s windows. Police investigation on the assault had slow progress.  

IAIN Ambon, located in the capital city of the Maluku province, also discontinued LPM Lintas’ activities after the university failed to verify all information relating to the piece in a meeting with the student journalists. The university accused the students of publishing false information and said it would change the structure of LPM Lintas to include those willing to ‘cooperate with the university and protect its reputation’.

The university also reported nine student journalists to the police, who received summon letters in May asking them to appear before the police for ‘clarification’. Intimidation and harassment against the student journalists is ongoing, with some students allegedly facing prejudice at the university since the investigative story was published.

The Indonesian Press Council published an assessment and stated that the investigative story by LPM Lintas should be awarded as it was in the public interest. Many universities in Indonesia have not taken firm action following reports of sexual harassment in the past.

AJI said: “AJI demands the rector of IAIN Ambon to end all the forms of intimidation against student journalists and respect press freedom. We also ask the Minister of Religious Affairs to monitor the violations of academic freedom in IAIN Ambon.”

The IFJ said: “All journalists must be allowed operate independently and protect the identities of their sources. The IFJ urges the IAIN Ambon and the Indonesian authorities to protect freedom of the press and dismiss the charges against the student journalists.

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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