The Buzz on Social Media About the Article ‘Jalan Tobat LGBT’: Media Failure to Respect Minority Rights

A number of activists were furious when they read an article about "Jalan Tobat LGBT" in an online media, Kumparan. They considered that the media failed to provide a perspective on LGBT in their writings.

If you read about several months ago, Kumparan reported about LGBT

The national online media gave the title of their article Jalan Tobat LGBT, which then stole a lot of attention. Moreover, when the news was disseminated through social media. It made a lot of noised. 

It was called stealing attention after publication because many gender and sexuality diversity activists became furious, protested, and spoke up. 

The article describes the experiences of several individuals of non-normative gender and sexual diversity (LGBT) who wrote about “finding the right way of life” after they “returned to nature” by no longer being LGBT. This media also writes about some figures, from assistance foundations, the government, and psychologists. Also film censorship organizations to religious leaders who affirm that LGBT is a deviant. Meanwhile, activists who defend the rights of gender and sexual minorities only get a small portion of this news. 

The director of the Gender, Children and Marginalized Groups Division, Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, Shinta Maharani, considers that media coverage -especially with such an unequal portion. For example, in the sentence about “the way of repentance for LGBT,” tends to be judgmental and has the potential to further corner minorities. 

“The judgment: LGBT conversion. After all, LGBT is not a disease and not a deviation (according to UN universal values),” said Shinta in writing in, April 5, 2023.

Shinta, who works as a journalist, also covers diversity issues. He said that such news was not inclusive of the LGBTIQ minority group. This is because it does not present the fact that a diversity of sexual identities exists. 

“It tends to be judgmental and has the potential to further corner the LGBTIQ minority,” he continued.  

Read More: Research: How Indonesian Media Views Non-Normative Sexuality and Genders (LGBT)

Based on several studies, such as Arus Pelangi and SMRC, LGBTIQ is the group that has experienced the most violence and is the most hated in Indonesia. Violence can be in the form of persecution, expulsion from the family, physical violence, to murder. This group is often excluded and does not get proper access to education, economy, health, political rights.” 

Media actions that give more ‘stages’ to people with high positions to issue statements detrimental to the LGBTIQ minority like that make the situation worse.

He believes the mass media should encourage friendly and inclusive coverage of the LGBTIQ minority. In addition, urging the state to fulfill their rights as citizens and against attacks, violence, and hatred against them. 

Unfortunately, today’s online media even give space to people with power with their positions. For example, members of the DPR Bamsoet who often corner the LGBTIQ minority. 

“Journalists must be extra careful when dealing with politicians and groups who often inflame hatred against minority groups. Especially ahead of the 2024 elections, which are prone to identity politics or selling populism,” added Shinta.

Read More: If There Is No Policy To Protect LGBT, Who Will Protect Them?

Meanwhile, Hartoyo, an LGBT activist and a transgender community assistant with access to Adminduk and social security, stated that the danger of news narratives. Such as the LGBT Tobat Street, could lead to stigmatization and discrimination.

“The term “repentance” is a word used in the context of religious teachings. As a media, the use of the word “repentance” has, in fact, “framed” the stigma on the LGBT community as the wrong group. So, it is necessary to “return to the right path” or repent,” said Hartoyo. 

In another context, according to him, the media could marginalize other groups—those who are marginalized socially, politically, economically, and even religiously. 

In Indonesia, for example, with most of the population being Muslim, certain parties claim that religions other than Islam will be labeled “heretical” or “infidel.” 

Read More: Human Rights Watch Report: Indonesia Events of 2022

“Even with different interpretations, it can be labeled heretical or deviant. For example, the stigma of heresy is attached to the teachings of Ahmadiyah and Shia. Even said that it is not part of Islam. The same goes for other groups, for example, with disabilities being labeled as an abnormal group, a disease, a curse,” he explained. 

Not only that, but this also applies to the poor. For example, the poor will be stigmatized as stupid, dirty, criminal, or lazy. Black people in America are stigmatized as the culprit of illegal problems. In the LGBT context, similar stigmas are being perpetuated by the media. For example, deviating (hence the need to repent), misguided, diseased, and others. 

Hartoyo emphasized that the angle for reporting was a political choice for the media. Do you want to provide quality information —-which has a human rights and gender perspective— to the public? Or instead, choose to hate propaganda media. Thus, continuing to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against minority groups. 

“Everything becomes the choice and political attitude of the media itself. But I believe the public and history will record it!” he said. 

Minimal Media Gender Perspective

AJI Indonesia, the Union of Journalists for Diversity (SEJUK), and a non-governmental organization that defends the rights of LGBT people, Arus Pelangi, recently monitored reporting on LGBT: the majority lack a gender perspective.  

Of the 113 local and national media reports during January and February 2023, 100 had no gender perspective, five were neutral, and only eight had a gender perspective. 

The recorded media frequently quoted discriminatory statements from mass organization figures 35 times, 31 DPRD members, 25 times mayor, regent, and deputy regent, and 16 times from heads of services and heads of departments. Most give more space to those with power, not groups who cannot speak or are oppressed.

“Should (the mass media) produce quality journalistic works and follow the guidelines for reporting on diversity that has been issued by the Press Council at the end of 2022,” said Shinta from AJI Indonesia.

Not only in Indonesia, the phenomenon of media coverage that exacerbates the persecution of LGBT was the case in Uganda in 2014. 

At that time, the Ugandan parliament passed the highly discriminatory Anti-Homosexual Act, which provides for life imprisonment for those found to have had same-sex sexual relations. Although in the end, the law was canceled because it was passed by parliament without the presence of enough members to fill the quorum.

At the same time, the media in Uganda, including television and newspapers, showed highly negative images of LGBT people, describing them as “disturbed people” and “abnormal.” 

Read More: Grumbling to See CATAHU 2023, Real Evidence of TPKS Law Has Not Been Effectively Implemented

Local media also spread hoaxes that LGBT groups recruit children at school by giving money. The news constantly showing the dangers of LGBT has created a negative perception of LGBT in Ugandan society.

As a result, Ugandan society has become increasingly intolerant of LGBT, and many LGBT people in Uganda are subject to violence and discrimination. Many were forced from their homes, lost their jobs, and even abused or killed.

In 2023, the Ugandan Parliament is again proposing an anti-LGBT bill, whereby perpetrators of crimes related to homosexuality can be charged with up to 20 years in prison and up to the death penalty. Reporting to CNN, Uganda’s anti-LGBT law can be applied to various violations, including prohibiting promoting and abetting perpetrators of homosexuality or conspiring to engage in homosexual activity.

One human rights activist told the BBC that the debate around the bill had raised fears of more attacks on LGBT people. “There was a lot of blackmail. People are getting calls that “if you don’t give me the money, I’ll report you are gay,'” they say.

The bill was passed with broad support in the Ugandan parliament. LGBT was already illegal in Uganda, but this law introduced many new crimes. 

Misguided LGBT Reporting: Officials Become the Main Source research supported by USAID and the Internet with the theme “Their Story: Media Research Looking at Non-Normative Gender and Sexual Diversity (LGBT)” (2022) notes that the media still objectifies LGBT. Instead of making the news the subject, the press uses the police as the primary source. For example, in criminal cases related to the LGBT community, only a few media choose to conduct interviews with victims or advocacy teams from the “LGBT” community. 

On the other hand, the discrimination experienced by LGBT also comes from media narratives. Such as the use of diction and points of view that have negative connotations, such as bencong and sissy to describe the transgender community, as well as the dictions “same-sex”, “same group”, “there are twists and turns” to describe the gay community. Apart from this, more systematic discriminatory rules against the LGBT community were also issued by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI). 

Previously in 2015, AJI also conducted quantitative research on 20 mass media in Jakarta and Surabaya to see news about LGBTI groups in Indonesia. During the month-long scan, 113 news stories about LGBTI were found, with 107 coming from online media and 16 from print media. A total of 81 news stories are straight news.

More Read: Why Does LGBT Community Face Discrimination Continuously? 

In fact, there has been a lot of symbolic violence perpetrated by the media directly through the use of language in the news. 

In the headlines and news about LGBTI groups, there are sentences with a negative stigma. Especially in news articles. Meanwhile, in straight news, journalists tend to quote only information from the authorities without including sources from the LGBTI group.

This condition is caused by journalists and the media’s shared understanding of LGBTI and a lack of knowledge of journalistic ethics. In addition, the press is also pursuing the phenomenon of the high number of readers in online media. 

Chairman of AJI Indonesia, Suwarjono, stressed that the media should not be a part that destroys and plunges. The media must provide neutral coverage and provide space for speech.

The Ardhanary Institute notes that around 80 percent of the coverage in the media does not contain factual news about LGBTI. For example, in pure criminal cases, the statement focuses not on the matter but on their sexual orientation. This has caused the media to contribute to the emergence of opposing opinions in society against the LGBTI community in Indonesia. The media uses many words with negative connotations to refer to LGBTI, for example, sexual deviation, disorder, and even scum. 

Then, how should we cover the news on issues of gender and sexual diversity?

Shinta Maharani from AJI provided guidelines that must be considered when reporting on women and minority groups, which she shared when giving training. Such as writing news that respects diversity and is inclusive of LGBT minorities. Using a human rights perspective according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adhering to the Journalistic Code of Ethics.

In addition, it is also essential for journalists to apply guidelines for reporting on diversity issues. Also empathize with victims, understand that violence against women and minority groups occurs structurally and in layers. Beside that, about understand victims’ traumatic experiences, pay attention to victims’ conditions during interviews, and expand networks with networks that focus on women and minority groups.

(Edited by: Marina nasution)

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