(Jakarta) – The Indonesian Human Rights Watch said today that the government should support the National Press Council’s efforts to protect university media outlets and mediate their disputes with school authorities. On May 22, 2023, more than 150 college journalists will begin a week-long conference in Solo, Central Java, to discuss threats, attacks, and the forced shutdown of university media and the need for government action.
“Student journalists in Indonesia face intimidation and abuse ranging from censorship to defamation charges and newsroom closures, and have been left helpless in this onslaught against press freedom,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government and the Press Council need to highlight this media crisis and act to protect and support these student journalists.”
Between 2020 and 2021, the Indonesian Student Press Association (Perihimpunan Pers Mahasiswa Indonesia) reported 48 cases of university administrators threatening or shutting down students’ media outlets. 185 cases of alleged press misconduct campuses in the country. The abuses included threats, intimidation, physical assault, the closure of media outlets, and the expulsion of students because of their journalistic work.
Most Indonesian universities have at least one student media outlet, such as a newspaper, magazine, or online news site, and many older universities have several. While some older student press organizations produce printed publications, including some that have been published continuously since the 1960s, both old and new outlets publish their content on Internet websites and use social media.
1999 press lawwho established press council For the purpose of arbitrating defamation disputes, a press organization is defined as media that has an independent legal status such as a limited corporation, a foundation or a co-operative. However, student media operate within the official purview of their educational institution and, by extension, under the Ministry of Education for non-Islamic schools and the Ministry of Religious Affairs for Islamic schools. For this reason, the Press Council system does not protect student media outlets.
While student media organizations operate within the structure of their universities, many student media outlets operate like traditional independent newsrooms. This has often brought these organizations into conflict with university administrations when student journalists expose and report on malfeasance, corruption, sexual misconduct and other sensitive issues at their university.
under a 2017 Memorandum of Understanding between the Press Council and the National PoliceAny report of alleged defamation involving the media should be referred to the Press Council. The National Police agreed that they would file defamation cases against the media only if the complainant had already reported the matter to the Press Council. Such mediation by the Press Council has played an important role in resolving such complaints and protecting the freedom of the press.
However, criminal defamation cases involving student journalists and publications are handled directly by the local police station, where officers are more easily swayed by influential local elites pressing cases against student publications.
Human Rights Watch said that the National Press Council in Jakarta should engage with the National Police, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and seek an agreement that directs all college media disputes to be arbitrated by the Press Council.
In March 2019, the University of North Sumatra in Medan Close Suara USU Newsroom After a gay love story went viral, 18 student journalists affiliated with the news website were ordered to vacate the newsroom within 48 hours. The students filed a lawsuit against the university in July 2019 but lost in November 2019 at the Meydan Administrative Court. In January 2020, he founded wakana news websiteOperating outside the campus structure, and thus without financial support.
In March 2022, the Ambon Islamic State Institute shut down lintas student magazineAfter accusing its reporters and editors of “defaming” the campus, campus security was ordered to seal the newsroom and confiscate all equipment. The story, which angered the administration, documented a highly troubling environment for sexual assault of students on campus and the failure of university leadership to address it. Five people said they were relatives of an accused lecturer who attacked two student journalists. Abidin Rahvarin, Rector of the University, Nine more student journalists reported to police for criminal defamation,
lintas had spent five years investigating accounts of sexual assault on campus and interviewed 32 survivors (27 female and 5 male students). After mediation, the rector of the university agreed not to press the criminal defamation complaint, but replaced all lintas staff with other students.
Research by the Indonesian Student Press Association found that the most common actions against student media outlets are intimidation and bullying by university leaders, administrators and other powerful people on their campuses. Most calls for post-publication censorship usually involved the removal of certain news stories from student news websites. Even university lecturers have been included, as in August 2021, when Anhar AnshoriThe head of university book publications demanded that Poros The student news site at Ahmad Dahlan University in Yogyakarta removed a story about another lecturer it wrote on campus.
Student journalism has a long history in Indonesia. many founders of Indonesia including Mohammed Hatta And sutan sajhrirThe first Vice President and Prime Minister of Indonesia, respectively, in the 1940s, were student journalists in the Netherlands in the 1920s. The Student Press Association has at least 400 members from various college media organizations on the major Indonesian islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Some other islands also have their own associations, as do many cities.
“The Indonesian government should provide student media leaders with a meaningful response to the serious issues they have identified,” Robertson said. “Major government agencies and the Press Council should form a task force to try and prepare a settlement to protect student journalists and their publications.”