Indonesian university disbands student press over LGBTI story

The website of Suarausu.co was shut down from March 20 to 23 after the Chancellor of the University of Sumatra Utara (USU) disbanded the student press of Suarausu.co after the publication of a fictional story about discrimination of LGBTI people. The International of Federation Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI) in condemning USU for impeding on freedom of expression and the press.

Suarausu.co cartoon about the university interference. Credit: Suarausu.co

On March 12, Suarausu.co published a short fictional story highlighting discrimination LGBTI people face. On March 18, the story was shared on Suarausu.co social media channels, which was widely criticised. The following day, the rectorate of USU demanded a meeting with Suarausu.co chief editor and chairperson. During the meeting, the university told the outlet that the student press shouldn’t be publishing content related to LGBTI issues. The rectorate wanted the editorial team to focus on the achievements of students rather than criticizing the university.

On March 24, the rectorate called a second meeting between the editorial team and the university chancellor. Prior to the meeting on March 25, the editorial team were asked not to bring their mobile phones. During the meeting the chancellor demanded that the editorial team follow the values of the university and cease publishing content related to LGBTI issues or pornography. At the end of the meeting, the chancellor said that he had decided to disband the student press. They were told to empty the Suarausu.co offices by March 28. The chancellor said that the next elections for the editorial team would be conducted under his direction.

Suarausu.co is the only student press association in the university and was established in 1995.

AJI condemned the decision of the university. “As stated on the Law No.12 on the Higher Education, managing the universities should be done in a democratic process and against the discrimination also respect the human rights. The rectorate should stop the intervention and make sure this type of intimidation will not happen again in the future,” AJI said.

The IFJ said: “Student press has an important role to determine the development of journalism in the future. Aside of that, in Indonesia’s history, we can see that student press a leader to demand reformasi in the 1990s. We stand AJI condemning the intervention and ask the university to protect free speech as well as the democratic process and diversity of thought.”

 

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