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East Timor's proposed Constitution gives the government wide scope to potentially restrict the right to freedom of expression, ARTICLE 19 warned in an analysis last week. Although the group says it welcomes the process towards East Timor's adoption of a constitution ahead of the presidential elections and eventual independence, it says the draft constitution is "seriously deficient" in protecting human rights, including freedom of expression.

Under the existing draft constitution, the government has the authority to impose almost any restrictions on freedom of expression by passing a law to that effect, says ARTICLE 19. These powers could be abused to prevent criticism of officials or government policy, the group warns. In addition, the right to freedom of expression as defined in the proposed constitution applies only to citizens, whereas international law provides that states must protect the rights of everyone under their jurisdiction, says ARTICLE 19. Other concerns include the lack of protection for freedom of opinion and the protection of the right only to inform and be informed rather than the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas" as set out in under international law. To read ARTICLE 19's analysis in full, see ">">

For more information, contact Peter Noorlander of ARTICLE 19 by e-mail: [email protected].

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