Thursday, March 30, 2006

Minister angry at irresponsible, alarmist and downright deceitful reports

Media Release

“Timor-Leste’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, has reacted angrily to continuing “irresponsible, alarmist and downright deceitful” media reports about the situation in Timor-Leste.

“Reports by Agence France Press, Lusa - Portuguese news agency - and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation I have seen in the last few days are irresponsible, alarmist and downright deceitful,” Dr Ramos-Horta said. “It is journalism at its worst – dishonest and unethical reporting that makes a mockery of freedom of the press,” Dr Ramos-Horta, a former journalist himself, said.

“I’m completely at a loss to understand how Agence France Press can report that Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital, was “in lockdown after weekend riot” and the ABC (Australia) that “disturbances and looting throughout the capital over the weekend”, when they do not have resident correspondents. “They may claim that they spoke by phone with some locals – the ABC based its report on a conversation with an employee of non-profit media organization Internews in Dili - but it does not mean that the information was correct. Their reports were unbalanced, unfair, untrue and alarmist,” the Minister added.

“Internews is funded by the US Embassy and is supposed to be training Timorese journalists. They even announced a demonstration but when it did not happen, Internews embarrassingly made a second announcement that it had been postponed.” The Minister was particularly critical of a report distributed by Portuguese news agency Lusa claiming “a spiral of violence in some Dili suburbs”(‘a espiral de violencia nalguns bairros de Dili’). “The Lusa reporter is supposed to live here but as far as the majority of the population is concerned he may well be living in Mars,” Dr Ramos-Horta said. “What he described is absolutely unreal, pure irresponsibility.”

The Minister said that reports like those cited above has led a resident of Dili, an independent observer, to send an email “Dili has NO riots or lockdown” to ‘friends overseas”.

“The damage to Timor-Leste by these irresponsible reports is significant. I appeal to journalists to write the truth. That’s all I ask. Fair, ethical, balance reporting,” the Minister concluded.

Dr Ramos-Horta said that according to the Police Commissioner not one single person has been killed, and not one single house or shop torched. “The incidents took place in the outskirts of Dili and caused minor damage particularly to doors and windows through stone throwing by youth groups,” the Minister added. “In all, no more than 50 youths were involved in those incidents and no more than 20 houses or shops in the outskirts of Dili suffered damage. “A Police officer was critically wounded by stabbing in an incident not directly related to the tension with some members of the Armed Forces. “Of almost 600 army elements sacked only two were involved in some incidents,” the Minister concluded.”

Source: Press Release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (from UNOTIL Public Information Office, Daily Media Review)

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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