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Dutch journalist killed

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ press release, followed by an IFJ
letter addressed to President BJ Habibe and General Wiranto, expressing
outrage at the reported Indonesian military involvement in the death of a
journalist in East Timor:

Media Release

Journalists outraged at colleague's death in Timor

The International Federation of Journalists has expressed its outrage and
condemnation of the Indonesian military TNI at their reported involvement in
the death of a Dutch journalist in East Timor overnight.

Reports from Dili claim that Sander Thoenes, who works for the London
newspaper, The Financial Times, was killed after he and his driver
approached a road block on the road to Becora, a pro-independence suburb of

He was a passenger on a motorbike.

It is also claimed that the driver of the motorbike returned to Dili, and
reported that the militia was not involved in the attack. He told reporters
only TNI soldiers were at the roadblock.

Interfet troops, earlier today, rescued a British journalist and an American
photographer who had come under attack from suspected militias. Their
translator and driver are still missing. The IFJ is seriously concerned for
the lives of these media support workers.

IFJ president Christopher Warren says General Wiranto must take
responsibility for the actions of the TNI in East Timor.

"We have contacted Wiranto's office with our protest, and will continue a
campaign against those who interfere with the free flow of information out
of East Timor," Warren said.

"These attacks are a blatant attempt to stop journalists from getting the
story to the world."

"The ability of journalists to report freely is an essential component of
the democratic process.

The attacks clearly demonstrate that East Timor is not a safe area for
journalists to work in. The IFJ advises journalists in East Timor to
exercise extreme caution.

The IFJ's Safety Office for the Media in East Timor (SOMET) is still
operating out of Jakarta and Sydney and will be back on the ground in Dili
as soon as possible.

It advises that, until the region is secured, journalists not to travel to
East Timor unless they are part of the official delegation with Interfet

Freelance journalists are at most risk as they do not have the backup of a
large media organisation to evacuate them should the need arise. They are
not guaranteed protection, nor food and shelter.

The IFJ believes that once Interfet has more troops on the ground and have
secured the region, journalists should return to East Timor.

The efforts of Interfet to ensure the safety of journalists at work in East
Timor is appreciated, and we urge the forces to continue to work with the
media at this crucial time.

The International Federation of Journalists is the international body of
independent journalists organisations representing about 450,000 journalists
gathered in 130 independent organisations in over 100 countries, including
Australia and Indonesia.

With the support of its affiliates in Indonesia and Australia, the IFJ is
operating the Safety Office for Media in East Timor [SOMET]. The office will
be releasing a report on yesterday's events later today.

IFJ letter addressed to President BJ Habibe and General Wiranto:

September 22, 1999

His Excellency Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibe
Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Jakarta Pusat
Fax: 62 21 526 8726 or : 62 21 380 5511 or : 62 21 345 7782

Your Excellency,

The International Federation of Journalists is deeply concerned by the
reported involvement of Indonesian soldiers in the capture and murder of a
Dutch journalist in East Timor.

We have received reports that Sander Thoenes, a Dutch national who has been
the Jakarta correspondent with the London-based newspaper The Financial
Times since 1997, was captured by TNI soldiers at a roadblock near Becora in

We have also been informed that his death was caused by injuries received
while being dragged behind a vehicle.

A British journalist and an American photographer who came under attack from
militia, were rescued earlier today by Interfet soldiers. Their translator
and driver are still missing and we hold grave fears for their safety.

The Indonesian government has failed to curb the activities of the militias
and to guarantee that journalists are able to work without fear of physical
violence. These failures cast doubt on your administration's commitment to a
free press and freedom in Indonesia generally.

IFJ therefore respectfully calls on your government to withdraw Indonesian
military from East Timor, investigate the incidents documented in this
letter, and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.

While your police and security forces continue to be stationed in East Timor
we urge Your Excellency to instruct them to guarantee the safety of
journalists working there, and to discipline those officers who do not
comply with these orders.

We thank you for your attention to these urgent matters, and eagerly await
your response.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Warren,
President, International Federation of Journalists

cc General Wiranto, Minister for Defence and Head of TNI

Recommended Action

Similar appeals can be sent to:

Appeals To

His Excellency Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibe
Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
Fax: +62 21 526 8726 / +62 21 380 5511 / +62 21 345 7782

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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