Academics to build campaign against attacks on Look of Silence screenings

Source – December 19, 2014
Senyap film showing and discussion at Kelir Coffee Shop in Malang - December 10, 2014 (Tempo)
Senyap film showing and discussion at Kelir Coffee Shop in Malang - December 10, 2014 (Tempo)

Addi Mawahibun Idhom, Yogyakarta – The rector of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta, Dwikorita Karnawati, is protesting the forced cancelation of a screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence (Senyap) that was being held by the Sintesa Student Press Institutive (LPM) at the university’s School of Social and Political Sciences (Fisipol) on the evening to Wednesday December 17.

Karnawati said she deplores the unresponsive stand taken by police in protecting the event from the threat of intimidation. “This damages the principle of academic free speech forums”, Karnawati told journalist at the Grha Sabha Pramana signature building on December 19.

Karnawati is calling for immediate legal action to the taken over the intimidation and attack that caused the event to be halted half way through. She is of the view that the state must be present when citizen’s constitutional rights are threatened. “If anyone and everyone can be so easily intimidate, what is the meaning of the state’s existence”, she said.

According to Karnawati the case requires attention from law enforcers because in legal terms there was nothing untoward about the event. The discussion and screening of Senyap at the UGM Faculty of Social and Political Science was intended to support student’s intellectual ability in the analysis of political history. “Law enforcement will be rolled back if it continues to give in to terror, threats and intimidation”, said Karnawati.

Earlier a mob of 20 or protesters shielding their faces with motorcycle helmets and masks descended on a screening of Senyap at the BG building quadrangle at UGM’s School of Social and Political Sciences. As a result, the event that was to end at 10pm on Wednesday evening had to be halted two hours early.

The film was scheduled to be shown twice followed by a discussion but the protesters arrived during the first sowing. Earlier in the week, two screenings of Senyap had taken place at the School of Social and Political Sciences.

The dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Science, Erwan Agus Purwanto, added that there had been threats against the event since 1am on Wednesday. Yogyakarta regional police also advised that the event be canceled because of the threat of violence. “On Wednesday evening, aside from the protesters that entered the Fisipol, many people also assembled in the vicinity of the campus”, he said.

Purwanto said that cases such as this cannot be allowed to be repeated on his campus. He claimed he would be gathering support from other campuses that have experienced similar problems such as Yogyakarta Indonesian Fine Arts Institute (ISI), the Brawijaya University in the East Java city of Malang and others. “Collectively we will gather support to confront this terror”, he said.

According to Purwanto, there were no grounds for forcing the cancelation of the LPM Sintesa event because the screening of Senyap is part of the National Human Rights Commission’s (Komnas HAM) agenda to educate the public about the history of past crimes against humanity. Because of this therefore, academic institutions cannot give into acts of intimidation against scholarly forums. “Clearly the event was not to spread communist ideas”, said Purwanto.

Purwanto is calling on the government to take immediate and firm action. Purwanto homes that State Secretary Pratikno, who is also a former UGM rector, will report the incident to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

“Three times already at the UGM events have been forcibly cancelled due to intimidation, aside from yesterday, there was the case of a discussion by [Australian academic] Max Lane and Irshad Manji several years ago, this cannot be allowed to continue”, he said.

According to Purwanto, cases such as this could become a bad president for civil and academic communities in Indonesia. Every time they express different ideas, groups that oppose them are free to use intimidation in response. “We are currently thinking about ways of institutionalising a model of dialogue in managing differences among the public”, said Purwanto.

UGM School of Social and Political Sciences sociologist Arie Sudjito also believes that the forced cancellation by mass organisations at several locations in Yogyakarta where screenings of Senyap were taking place, including on his campus, is excessive. He is of the view that the continued violation of citizen’s rights cannot be tolerated anymore. “Violating human rights, democracy, is evidence that the state is still week and that the police are giving in to civil militia [groups],” said Sudjito.

Along with other academic colleagues, Sudjito is preparing a letter of protest to President Widodo calling on him to take a firm stand. He believes that the forced cancellation of Senyap screenings in several parts of the country are a national issue and deserve the president’s attention. “This is the right moment for Jokowi to fulfill his pledge, namely to provide a state presence in political life”, said Sudjito.

The Institute Research of Empowerment (IRE) researcher believes that efforts to deal with the behaviour of intolerant groups will not be difficult for the Widodo administration. “Moreover, it’s a constitutional mandate”, he said.

The letter of protest, according to Sudjito, will also be sent to the Yogyakarta regional police who need to be held accountable for the forced cancellation of Senyap at UGM, the Yogyakarta ISI, the Yogyakarta Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and other places. “We intend to invite all civil society organisations to take action”, he said.

The chairperson of the Human Rights Study Centre (PUSHAM) at the Islamic University of Indonesia (UII), Eko Riyadi meanwhile, noted that in some parts of the country firm actions by the police against intolerant groups is common when there is significant support from regional governments.

Riyadi gave the example of the firm action taken by Metro Jaya regional police in Jakarta against the perpetrators of violence from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) because there was legitimisation in the form of support from then Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. “In Wonosobo [Central Java], because the regent was clean and firm, the minority Ahmadiyah and Syiah [religious groups] have been protected despite many threats”, he said.

If the threats against the screening of Senyap in Yogyakarta continue, Riyadi has a unique suggestion. Organisers of screenings who feel threatened should request a permit to hold the events at the Yogyakarta regional police headquarters. “In order to counter the excuse by police who have been stating that they are incapable of providing security for the event in many places”, said Riyadi.

According to Riyadi, allowing these cases of intolerance to occur in Yogyakarta is of concern. Riyadi believes that the passive stand taken by police against intolerant groups in Yogyakarta is logically difficult to accept. “If cases like this continue to occur, it’s reasonable to suspect that the state is involved as an actor”, he said.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was UGM Galang Dukungan Lawan Massa Anti-Film Senyap.]