University pulls campus website over story about LGBT discrimination

Java Post – March 22, 2019
Student displays suspended Voice of USU website (Jawa Pos)
Student displays suspended Voice of USU website (Jawa Pos)

Prayugo Utomo – The fate of the North Sumatra University (USU) Student Press Institute’s Voice of USU (Suara USU) is on the “horns of a dilemma”. A short story rejecting discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people has resulted in a threat to close down the campus press, which has produced many reputable journalists.

The short story, which was posted on the website last week, was titled When Everyone Refuses My Presence Near Her and tells the story about discrimination against a lesbian woman.

The Voice of USU team also posted the short story on Instagram attracting lively commentary from netizens. Quite a few condemned the story because they saw it as vulgar.

“When it was posted on the website there was no uproar. When it was posted on medsos [social media] (Instagram – Ed) within less than a day (of being uploaded) it had created a storm. The Voice of USU was deemed to be pro-LGBT because the story used an illustration of a rainbow. So it was immediately judged”, explained the author of the short story Yael Stefani Sinaga, who is also the pubic head of Voice of USU, on Thursday March 21.

After provoking such a public reaction, the website was unilaterally suspended and can no longer be accessed.

Before being suspended, the university rectorate also summoned the Voice of USU editorial board. During the meeting, the rectorate asked that the story be withdrawn because it was considered to be vulgar and created a polemic.

Sinaga was quite offended because it was as if the campus authorities believed that it is not proper for their own students to write on issues such as this.

“So they said this must be deleted because it has also spread widely. Yet I know the people in the rectorate, the rector, the deputy rector. But we didn’t want to, we just archived it from medsos. But (we) didn’t pull it from the website”, said Sinaga.

They had no idea that the meeting would end in their website being suspended. Sinaga also revealed that during the meeting they were told that the legal status of the Voice of USU would be revoked and the publication closed down.

Sinaga added that the short story was actually aimed at campaigning against discrimination against LGBT people because according to Sinaga, there is still frequent discrimination against LGBT people in Indonesia.

Since the Voice of USU was suspended, they have not been summoned again for further discussions although they are still trying to restore the site. “For the moment [we’re] posting stuff on medsos”, said Sinaga.

When sought for confirmation by phone, USU Rector Runtung Sitepu admitted that he had heard about the story. In his view the short story posted on the Voice of USU conflicts with the USU’s vision and mission, although he has not yet met with the Voice of USU editorial board because he is currently in Jakarta.

“On Monday I plan to invite the entire board, those that take editorial responsibility, including the Voice of USU administrator, [to ask] why this was allowed to happen? This has damaged USU’s image”, asserted Sitepu.

Apparently Sitepu is serious and he has even said that they will close down the Voice of USU as a Student Activity Unit (UKM). “The Voice of USU’s UKM will be revoked just like that. This has not yet been announced officially because I’m still in Jakarta”, he added.

Sitepu admitted that he was quite angry with the Voice of USU because he wants USU to maintain a good public image.

“Yes (it will be closed down), and that’s not all. Don’t go in that direction (LGBT). The story was not in accordance with the facts. Five years ago we experienced this. If it’s not in line with the rectorate program, so it doesn’t need to be maintained. If they want to do it, do it outside. Establish their own media”, he asserted.


The website Voice of USU and the article When Everyone Refuses My Presence Near Her (Ketika Semua Menolak Kehadiran Diriku Di Dekatnya) now appear to both be accessible.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Rektor USU Ancam Bubarkan Media Kampus karena Memuat Cerpen Soal LGBT”.]