The following is a statement by the Yogyakarta International Women’s Day (IWD) Committee on the University of North Sumatra’s (USU) censoring of the Suara USU (Voice of USU) student press.
The short story titled When Everyone Refuses My Presence Near Her (Ketika Semua Menolak Kehadiran Diriku Didekatnya) went viral after it was posted on social media by the Suara USU (Voice of USU) Student Press Institute (LPM) on Monday March 18.
The short story provoked an extremely negative reaction from the USU campus authorities with USU Rector Runtung Sitepu revoking the Suara USU editorial board’s accreditation claiming that the story contained pornography and supported the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people.
On March 25 the Suara USU editorial board was summoned to meet with Sitepu. The meeting proceeded in an undemocratic and unequal atmosphere. All of the Suara USU’s equipment was confiscated before the meeting even began on the pretext that information on the meeting would not spread outside of the USU. The meeting concluded with the rector sacking the entire Suara USU editorial board and terminating them as members of the Student Press Institute.
This decision deeply wounded the values of democracy and freedom of expression which are protected by Law Number 9/1998 on the Freedom of Expression in Public which guarantees all citizens the right to freely express ideas and opinions. It also violates Law number 39/1999 on Human Rights which guarantees the right to communicate and obtain information.
The rectorate also violated Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which Indonesia has ratified – that clearly protects the freedom of expression.
The article reads, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
The rectorate’s pretext for censoring the Suara USU was homophobic and anti-LGBT. Such a position is especially dangerous since it came out of the mouth of a leading academic from of a tertiary institution which should not discriminate against LGBT people, who should be granted the same rights and protection by the state as other citizens.
The Yogyakarta IWD Committee hereby state that we:
- Fully support the Suara USU LPM.
- Strongly condemn the actions of the USU rectorate in sacking the entire Suara USU editorial board.
- Demand that the USU rectorate restore the rights of the Suara USU LPM members.
- Reject the revocation of the Suara USU’s LPM accreditation because it violates Law Number 12/2012 on Tertiary Education.
- Urge the USU rectorate to issue a public apology for its actions in restricting freedom of speech and expression and for its discriminative attitude towards the LGBT community.
- Call on the ordinary people and the pro-democracy movement to join in solidarity and defend democratic space in Indonesia.
Organisations that are part of the Yogyakarta IWD Committee:
- LBH Yogyakarta
- Socialist Study Circle (LSS)
- University of Gajah Mada Indonesian Women’s Secretariat (Srikandi UGM)
- Indonesian Islamic University Indonesian Women’s Secretariat (Srikandi UII)
- People Like Us Satu Hati (PLUSH)
- Women’s Liberation Union – Siempre
- Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan)
- Yogyakarta Student Horizon (CMY)
- Yogyakarta Women’s Network (JPY)
- Papuan Student Alliance (AMP)
- Women’s March Yogyakarta
- Distractio (Distraksi)
- The Collective Without a Name
- Yogyakarta Transgender Association (Iwayo)
- Lavender Study Club
- Socialist Union
- AR Fakhruddin Muhammadiyah Students Association
Organisations joining in solidarity:
- Populist Study Circle (LKS) Kutim
- Populist Study Circle (LKS) Samarinda
- Cross Community
- Resistance Youth
- Al-Fatah Trans-gender Islamic Boarding School
- Talita Kum LGBT Study Institute
- Fian Hope
- Indonesian Islamic University Campus Democracy Alliance
[Translated by James Balowski. Edited slightly for readability. The original title of the article was “Pernyataan Sikap Aliansi Komite International Women’s Day Yogyakarta Mengecam Rektorat Universitas Sumatera Utara yang Melakukan Pengekangan terhadap Lembaga Pers Mahasiswa Suara USU.”.]