Students say editorial board sacking over LGBT story tramples free expression

Business Daily – March 28, 2019
Student protest against sacking of Suara USU staff – March 28, 2019 (MBD)
Student protest against sacking of Suara USU staff – March 28, 2019 (MBD)

Jones Gultom, Medan – A number of student organisations from the North Sumatra University (USU) which are part of the group Student Solidarity Speaking Out (Somber) held a peaceful protest at the USU campus on Thursday March 28.

The students were protesting against the attitude of USU Rector Runtung Sitepu who sacked 18 student press (Persma) members from the Suara USU (Voice of USU) over the recent publication of a short story titled Everyone Refuses My Presence Near Them on the Suara USU website which allegedly supported Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people.

Somber called on Runtung not to curb free expression and to withdraw the dismissal letter (SK pemberhentian). The peaceful action was held in conjunction with several art performances involving different student groups at the USU.

Sacked Suara USU chief editor Widya said that they their freedom of expression has been restricted and trampled on. “We were sacked because we expressed something [they didn’t like]. It was arbitrary”, he said.

Today the Suara USU secretariat, which is located on the USU campus, was emptied and the furnishings and equipment moved to the homes and boarding houses of editorial board members.

USU public relations officer Elvi Sumanti told the Medan Business Daily on Wednesday March 27 that the USU Student Affairs Bureau has taken over Suara USU.

Suara USU represents one Student Activity Unit (UKM) out of 36 UKM which exist at the USU. All of them are under the Student Affairs Bureau. The Suara USU UKM will remain but with a new editorial board which will be facilitated by the Student Affairs Bureau”, said Sumanti.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Pengurus Persma SUARA USU Dipecat, Mahasiswa Demo Protes Rektor”.]