Lawsuit filed against closure of IAIN student magazine for reporting sexual abuse

Tempo – July 8, 2022
Lintas Magazine members hold posters demanding court revoke magazine closure – July 7, 2022 (Lintas)

Mutia Yuantisya, Jakarta – The Lintas Student Press Institute (LPM) Defenders Coalition is asking the Ambon State Administrative Court or the PTUN to be wise and just in its ruling on a lawsuit against the shutdown of the Ambon State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) student magazine Lintas.

"Aside from this, we are also urging the PTUN to first of all grant a postponement of the decision, demand that the Ambon IAIN rector withdraw the letter shutting down Lintas and urge the campus to investigate cases of sexual violence at the Ambon IAIN", said the Coalition in a press release on Friday July 8.

The Lintas LPM submitted the lawsuit against IAIN Rector Letter Number 92/2022 on the Suspension of the LPM at the Ambon PTUN on Thursday July 7. They said that the Lintas challenge was registered as Number 23/G/2022/PTUN.ABN.

"We strongly condemn the silencing of Lintas because this robs us of our right to study. We have taken this step to restore our house of study in a respectful manner", said Lintas Magazine senior editor Yolanda Agne in the press release.

On March 17 Lintas Magazine was closed down because it carried a special article on sexual violence titled "Ambon IAIN Prone to Abuse".

In the magazine's January edition, which was published on March 14, they wrote that 32 people comprising 25 women and seven men claimed to have been the victims of sexual harassment at IAIN. The 14 alleged perpetrators of the sexual harassment meanwhile were eight lecturers, three campus employees, two students and one alumnus.

Based on the suspension letter the student activities unit which was established on April 26, 2022, was deactivated indefinitely. Lintas Magazine is being represented in the law suit by four plaintiffs, namely Yolanda Agne, M. Sofyan Hatapayo, Idris Boufakar and Taufik Rumadaul.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs hope that the court will cancel the letter signed by Rector Zainal Abidin Rahawarin on March 17. Lintas had earlier submitted a letter of objection with the campus administration over the closure but this has never been heeded.

"This lawsuit is a step taken to fight so that press freedom on campus is guaranteed, which we think is problematic", said Agne.

Filing a suit with the PTUN was also considered to be a wise move as an effort to restore student press activities.

The Lintas LPM Defenders Coalition, which that is supporting the lawsuit. is made up of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Indonesian Caucus for Academic Freedom (KIKA), the Maluku regional board of the Association of Indonesian Television Journalists (IJTI), the Ambon City AJI and the Indonesian Student Press Union (PPMI).

According to the LBH Pers, there are several issues in the lawsuit which highlight why the rector's decision was legally flawed in procedural and substantive terms.

The AJI, LBH Pers and KIKA also sent an open letter to Rector Rahawarin over the closure saying that the coverage by LPM Lintas is part of mass communication and journalistic activities as regulated under Article 1 Paragraph 1 of Law Number 40/1999 on the Press.

"The activities of LPM Lintas are part of the right to freedom of expression which is protected under the constitution, as regulated under Article 28F of the 1945 Constitution", the groups said in a press release on April 12.

Not content with just shutting down Lintas, on March 21 the IAIN public relations office also issued a release containing a police report against the editorial board and Agne for alleged defamation.

"Acts of violence, the closure, and efforts to criminalise Lintas have deeply wounded academic freedom which is guaranteed under Law Number 20/2003 on the National Education System and Law Number 12/2012 on Tertiary Education", the groups said.

The Surabaya Principles of Academic Freedom stated that academic institutions must be free from restrictions and disciplinary actions in the context of developing an academic culture which is responsible and has scientific integrity for humanity.

The protection of academic freedoms is declared under Articles 8, 9 and 54 Paragraph 3 of Law Number 12/2012 on Tertiary Education. Article 13 Paragraph 3 of the law also clearly guarantees academic freedom for students.

"Students have academic freedom in prioritising intellectual activity and noble morality as well as responsibilities in accordance with academic culture", they said.

Thus the results of the Lintas investigation which uncovered the sexual violence on campus should result in serious attention and be followed up by the Ambon IAIN. Any form of violence, including sexual violence, cannot be allowed to take place on campus.

"Sexual violence is a human rights violation which causes an extraordinary impact on the victims, both physical, psychological, economic, social and political".

Sexual violence at tertiary education institutions has become a serious issue in Indonesia. The Religious Affairs Ministry has issued Ministry of Religion Director General of Islamic Education Directive Number 5494/2019 on Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Sexual Violence in Islamic Tertiary Education Institutions.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi Minta PTUN Bersikap Adil dalam Proses Persidangan atas Gugatan LPM Lintas".]