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Indonesian media cautioned against anti-LGBT progaganda

Giving undue importance to anti-LGBT views by politicians can cause harm to the community
Hendrika Mayora Victoria (left), a 35-year-old Catholic transgender, posing for a photograph with her friends. Advocacy groups have asked the mass media not to give undue importance to politicians' efforts to use LGBT issues ahead of polls

Hendrika Mayora Victoria (left), a 35-year-old Catholic transgender, posing for a photograph with her friends. Advocacy groups have asked the mass media not to give undue importance to politicians' efforts to use LGBT issues ahead of polls. (Photo: Supplied)

Published: March 07, 2023 12:05 PM GMT
Updated: March 07, 2023 12:05 PM GMT

Activists and an independent journalists’ body in Indonesia have warned the media against giving undue importance to politicians' efforts to exploit Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues ahead of polls in the nation with the world's largest Muslim population.

In a joint statement on March 7, they said discriminatory coverage of politicians and government officials calling for anti-LGBT laws "has the potential to reinforce hostility, hatred, discrimination and persecution” against the LGBT community.

Citing a study conducted with 113 news stories with the keyword ‘LGBT’ 'between January and February, the Indonesian Independent Journalists Alliance, Journalists' Union for Diversity, and Arus Pelangi, an NGO for the rights of the LGBT community, blamed the media for giving undue importance to anti-LGBT statements by politicians and government officials.

The groups quoted the much-acclaimed comments by Bobby Nasution, the son-in-law of President Joko Widodo and mayor of Medan,  Indonesia's third largest city, on New Year's day. 

On Jan 1, Nasution claimed to have spotted a gay couple in front of Medan’s City Hall.

“There is no LGBT in the city of Medan. We are anti-LGBT,” he told the media. 

Nasution’s utterances were followed by statements from public officials in Sampang Makassar, North Kalimantan Bandung, and Garut, seeking anti-LGBT laws in their regions. 

"Discriminatory diction adds to the stigma” of the LGBT minority, said Tantowi Anwari, advocacy manager of the Journalists' Union for Diversity.

Out of the 113 new reports, 35 included discriminatory statements by civil society organizations (ormas), 25 from mayors and regents, 16 from heads of the departments, and 31 by members of the People’s Representative Council, a legislative body.

The study found 29 instances of ‘LGBT’ being referred to as “deviant behavior” and 28 indicating it is “prohibited by religion.”

But there were only five pro-LGBT reports, including statements from LGBT groups.

"The mass media must be extra careful with patterns of using identity politics ahead of the 2024 elections," said Ika Ningtyas, general secretary of the Indonesian Independent Journalists Alliance.

She also encouraged the Press Council, the watchdog of the media in the country, to issue norms for reporting anti-LGBT issues.

Hendrika Mayora Victoria, 35, a Catholic transgender and coordinator of the advocacy group, Fajar Sikka, told UCA News that politicians' efforts to make use of anti-LGBT sentiments are often successful in Indonesia because "religious views that are anti-LGBT are still strong" in the country, which houses approximately 231 million adherents of Islam.

"In such a context, we do see that this issue has the potential to be exploited," she warned.

According to Arus Pelangsi, there were 48 discriminatory local regulations across the country, and as many as 1,840 people from the LGBT community were victims of persecution from 2006 to 2018.

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