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Local journalists want the Press Council to investigate reports that Aceh’s media reported unconfirmed allegations voiced by local sharia police that led a teenage girl to kill herself.
“We urge that the case be immediately addressed, as the media had a lot to do with the teen’s suicide,” Taufik Al Mubara, the head of the Banda Aceh chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said.
The body of the 16-year-old girl, identified as PE, was found hanged in her home in Langsa, East Aceh, on Sept. 6. Several newspapers had printed the allegations of the sharia police that the girl was a prostitute.
“The media has committed a ‘trial by press’ by reporting that the arrested woman was a prostitute without confirmation and only using quotations and information provided by the sharia police,” said Taufik.
The reports were published by ProHaba, a local newspaper operated by Serambi Indonesia, a regional media group owned by Kompas Gramedia; the Medan, North Sumatra, edition of Waspada, and the Medan edition of Rakyat Aceh, owned by the Jawa Pos group.
The tabloids published stories that said two girls were arrested by sharia police at Merdeka Square in Langsa, East Aceh, as they watched a concert on Sept. 3.
The next day, ProHaba published a report titled “Two teenage sex workers arrested by sharia police”, while articles with similar headlines were published by Rakyat Aceh and Waspada.
Apparently wrought with guilt and shame, PE hanged herself, leaving a suicide note addressed to her father.
The note said: “Father, forgive me, for I have brought shame on you and others, but I swear that I‘ve never sold myself to others. That night, I was just watching a concert in Langsa, and I was sitting on the field with a friend.”
The three newspapers allegedly did not verify the claims of the sharia police, according to Banda Aceh chapter of the AJI. “Without confirmation, the media immediately judged PE as a prostitute,” Taufik said.
Langsa Islamic sharia office head Ibrahim Latif told the AJI that PE never mentioned that she was a sex worker, Taufik said.