Recently, the mainstream media in Indonesia was heated with a celebrity scandal – one popular “dream couple” filed for divorce and reported a domestic assault case. This unfortunate affair created a huge ripple on the nation’s entertainment industry; however, another popular couple used the moment and turned it into a prank video for their YouTube channel, in which they tried to file a fake domestic violence case to the police.
While it was a sad occurrence, it is even sadder that the second couple dared to even think to make that kind of content, signalling that it is an acceptable content for the people of Indonesia (spoiler alert: it’s not). This kind of problematic mindset is one of the things that Magdalene.co is fighting against. They are one of a very few platform in Indonesia that addressed the controversy from an educational angle regarding the realities of domestic violence, and why they should not have made this issue a joke – compared to other news platforms that focused on the criminal investigation following this issue, or the profiles of these already-famous celebrities.
With their inclusive digital journalistic platform, Magdalene.co is trying to educate the people of Indonesia about issues that are considered sensitive and taboo in this conservative nation – from women’s rights, gender equality, feminism to LGBTQIA+ and human rights. This platform has since 2013 given voice to the underrepresented, as shown by their manifesto in this video:
Tracing the line to new media and activism issues, building a new media platform is not a simple ordeal. Especially when they promote a certain ideology opposing the majority’s. ICT has in a sense help enable Magdalene to grow, to become an important platform of learning for some people. The old form of printed media would be very difficult to build, in terms of funding, censorship, even to find the right readers for it. But since the internet made it possible for everyone to read their piece of information online, it facilitates them in reaching their targeted audience, although it is still tough to make this platform sustainable due to the topics they cover.
Having a non-conservative label in Indonesia is not easy. Being open minded is the same as being “different”, it promotes a negative stigma about oneself and risks getting threats from the extreme religious-based conservative groups. It is implied by the people that this way of thinking promotes a Western perspective, which usually is labeled too modern and wrong, or simply full of sin. Magdalene is not immune from that, judging from the comments they got on their Instagram platform, usually whenever they are trying to communicate about LGBT-rights.
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In this video, they are using satire to educate Indonesians, “What is the agenda behind the LGBT community?”. While Magdalene was essentially showing that the LGBT-community just want to live normally without discrimination and other persecution, they were getting some negative feedbacks, such as “unfollowed” or “Wow, this account is defending the deviants. You guys are open minded, but it has gone too far”, followed by a huge debate on what is right or wrong according to their respective religions. Anti-LGBT gestures are no stranger amongst the Asian countries, according to the Human Rights Watch reports. Indonesia is not exempt from that, but the existence of a local-based digital platform like Madeleine shows the fights of the people for basic human rights in Indonesia.