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Court rejects student journalists' lawsuit against being sacked over LGBT story

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2019

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – The Medan State Administrative Court (PTUN) has rejected a lawsuit against the rector of North Sumatra University (USU) filed by students working with the Suara USU student website who had been fired from the editorial board for publishing a short story touching on lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) issues.

Presiding Judge Budiman Rodding said the short story titled Semua Menolak Kehadiran Diriku di Dekatnya (Everyone Refuses My Presence Near Her) and published by Suara USU on March 12 had caused controversy for containing pornography and LGBT content.

Budiman said that, based on those considerations, the rector's decision to fire the Suara USU editorial board was justifiable, as the rector had the authority over education, research and public services.

The students should have respected the regulations and values of USU as referred to in the university's internal regulations, he said.

He went on to say that the students had not conducted themselves according to USU's values stipulated in Article 129 of USU Internal Law (UU) No. 15 on USU management.

"Based on these considerations, the panel of judges rejects in its entirety the lawsuit and orders the plaintiffs to pay Rp 317,000 [US$22.5] in case fees," Budiman said during the hearing on Thursday.

The plaintiffs had 14 days to appeal the court ruling at the Medan State Administrative High Court (PTTUN), he added. Representatives of the defendants did not attend the final hearing.

In response to the ruling, dismissed Suara USU chief executive Yael Stefany Sinaga said the judges' decision was "wrong", arguing that the bench had only looked at prevailing norms and social values, which he said seemed to confirm that USU and the country did not uphold the freedom of speech.

"The judges said that Suara USU's former members could express their views outside Suara USU, so their firing did not violate the freedom of expression," Yael told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"That is wrong, because Suara USU is the place for Suara USU's members to write. With the closure of Suara USU and our firing, that is a violation [of the freedom of expression]."

Yael said they were still discussing with their lawyers about further legal action.

The rector fired the 18 members of the Suara USU editorial board based on a Decree No. 13.19 2019, arguing that the student website had distributed pornographic content by publishing a short story about a lesbian's unrequited love on March 12. (ami)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/11/15/court-rejects-student-journalists-lawsuit-against-being-sacked-over-lgbt-story.html