The chairperson of Timor-Leste’s public television network was allegedly removed for rejecting political meddling.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make for big victories. Such is the case in East Timor, where charges against two journalists were dropped following an international outcry.
As Timor-Leste conducts its fourth regular national elections, the country’s free but resource-poor media is challenged to provide a fair coverage of an increasingly complex political context.
The IFJ and the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) join international organisations the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Freedom House in calling on the Timor Leste Prime Minister to withdraw the criminal defamation case against the “Timor Post”, a journalist and a former editor.
Article 8 of the Timor Leste Press Law clearly protects the work of journalists, and states “The right of journalists to report shall be exercised on the basis of constitutional powers, may not be subjected to interference that threatens their independence and objectivity, freedom of establishment, and freedom of conscience.”
The IFJ and MEAA commemorated the 40th anniversary of the killing of the Balibo Five, with the establishment of a scholarship to develop journalism skills in East Timor. The five young Australian journalists were killed in East Timor by Indonesian military troops after witnessing an incursion by Indonesian soldiers.
While no journalist has been jailed for their work, press freedom and journalist safety in Timor-Leste are constantly under threat, mostly from politicians. Moreover, a new Press Law has been in place since the beginning of 2015.
MEAA, the trade union and industry advocate for Australia’s journalists, condemns the East Timor government’s proposed new media law that will have a chilling effect on press freedom across the country.
East Timor’s president should refuse to sign a new media law until parliament revises provisions that will chill free speech, Human Rights Watch said. The Court of Appeal is reviewing the law’s constitutionality in response to a request by the president.
The new media law in Timor-Leste should be vetoed by the country’s President, agrees the Pacific Freedom Forum. The new law risks returning the young country to colonial style repression, it is feared.
The East Timorese government has been criticised after a media law was ratified on 7 May 2014, which seeks to regulate the media by imposing restrictions on journalists.
The IFJ joins the Timor Lorosa’e Journalists’ Association in raising concerns about East Timor’s pending draft media legislation and its impact on press freedom and freedom of expression after a recent round of media consultations on the law.
In late 2013, the Australian intelligence services raided the offices of a lawyer representing East Timor in an international case against Australia. The case concerns allegations that Australia spied on East Timor’s cabinet during sensitive commercial negotiations over oil and gas revenues.
Reporters Without Borders welcomes the holding of an historic congress of East Timor journalists and the results obtained, but stresses that only the creation of a favorable environment for the press would lead to true self-regulation of the media.