The freedom of press of Indonesian LGBT NGO is under attack
Since April 2013, Our Voice Indonesia, one of the Indonesian LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) NGOs faced an issue on their freedom of distribution of information to their audiences. Some audiences complained of not being able to access the website of Our Voice Indonesia. On Tuesday, July 16, Our Voice Indonesia discussed advocacy strategies with the Press Legal Institute (LBH Press), before discussing about this blockade to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Menkominfo).
Our Voice Indonesia, is one of the Indonesian LGBT movements that becomes very popular recently, not only among Indonesian LGBT, but also heterosexual youths, academics and human right activists. This NGO became well-known for their website’s promotion of human rights, gender and sexual equality, and religion and education, as well as its many creative activities .
Their mission to promote equality and human rights is wrapped by news on tragedies of human rights or inequality issues, gossips among celebrities about gay rights that occur in Indonesia and overseas. At the same time, this NGO attempts to share knowledge through articles that are written by many Indonesian scholars and activists from different disciplines.
Chronology of website closure
On April 2013, the website of Our Voice Indonesia cannot be accessed via Pro XL, one of the Indonesian internet providers. Hartoyo, the general secretary of Our Voice went to the office of Pro XL to ask for explanation about this problem. After which the website was accessible again for several days. On May 2013, the same problem occurred. This time the problem became more complicated. Several visits and e-mails were needed in order to obtain clarity from this problem.
The employee who works in Pro XL office checked this website. It turned out accessible by using wifi, but not with Pro XL. Through twitter account or Pro XL, the employee said that there is a possibility that this website is blocked due to its negative contents. Menkominfo is the authority that releases and adjusts the rule for communication and information providers. By negative content they mean pornographic or sexual material.
Hartoyo tried to clarify this issue by contacting the staff of Menkominfo. According to the staff of Menkominfo, the minister does not know anything about it. Until recently, there is no clarification on this problem from Pro XL.
Why do authorities fear from freedom on distributing information and knowledge about sexuality?
Sexual practice is considered taboo, inappropriate, and a sin. Sexual practice is accepted or allowed when it takes place within marriage legalized by the state. In other words, sexual practice is ruled by state. On the contrary, pre- and extra-marital sexual practice takes place among homosexual and heterosexual in “private places”, behind curtain and wall. We (state and citizens) know about this practice. In this sense, sexual practice becomes a behavior too taboo to be discussed, because it is loaded with secret and fear of violating the norms. Locating sexuality into a private domain made this subject undiscussed.
On some level, sexual practice remains a private domain. Not only for LGBT, but also for heterosexual Indonesians. However, it does not prevent the authorities to do the intervention towards the sexuality of Indonesian citizens. We still need to find out, whether it was Pro XL as an internet provider, or Menkominfo who decided to close the access of this LGBT website.
Nevertheless, there are many important issues we need to understand in this problem. But the main issue I attempt to address is how the state exercise their authority by controlling the freedom of press and sexual knowledge of their citizens. Blocking a website without any discussion with the management of the website means that the right of the client was ignored. Furthermore, the reasons mentioned by Pro XL how this website contains negative, pornographic or sexual materials is not true.
What actually happened is a fait accompli of the state or the internet provider company towards the basic rights of their citizens to possess an access of knowledge. Moreover, the internet provider, without any discussion has represented their client by taking this decision. The issue being raised is that the freedom of press can always be taken away by those who possess authority. Borrowing the theory generated by French philosopher and one of the important theorists on power, Michael Foucault, we are no longer the subject of our sexuality. We, and our sexuality,are objectified by those who own power.