A suicide is always tragic, but teenage suicide is particularly so. In the case of the young Acehnese girl, Putri Erlina, the personal tragedy of suicide was overwhelmed by the public debate that it triggered.

The tragedy illustrates the complicated and contested relationship between secular law and Islamic Syariah in Aceh. The divisions within the journalists’ community over journalistic ethics and Syariah appear to reflect a larger controversy within the public sphere over the lack of a clear consensus on the implementation of Islamic criminal bylaws in Aceh. In this sense, the discussion of press ethics mirrors the broader discussion of Syariah, something that everyone formally “supports,” but which is still highly contested in everyday practice.

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Janet Steele

Janet Steele is professor of journalism at the George Washington University. A frequent visitor to Southeast Asia, she divides her time between Washington DC and Jakarta, where she teaches regular courses on narrative journalism. Her most recent book is “Mediating Islam, Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia.”

Nadya Noor

Nadya is a full-time illustrator/graphic designer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She pours colours into editorial illustration, doodles, comics, merchandise—you name it! You can find her art on Instagram @nadya.noor.