quinta-feira, 21 de julho de 2016

World watches as TL destroys freedom of speech


Ted McDonnell

PRESSURE is mounting on the Timor Leste government and Prime Minister Dr. Rui de Araújo with four international bodies calling on the controversial PM to drop criminal defamation against journalist Oki Raimundos and publisher of the Timor Post Lorenco Martins.

Under archaic Timor Leste criminal defamation laws, Raimundos and Martins could face jail and huge fines. Timor Leste is one of the few countries to have such “chilling effect” laws.

The defamation case comes at a time when the current coalition government prepares for the 2017 elections. Many believe the case is being used to silence criticism of the de Araujo government and almost a decade of alleged corruption under the previous PM Xanana Gusmao’s reign.

International Federation of Journalists; South East Asia Journalist Unions; Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House have each called on Timor Leste’s PM to drop the charges.

In its response to a letter from Dr. de Araujo the four media and freedom organisations state: “with great respect, is not the answer to this issue. The fact that the criminal law allows for the investigation and prosecution of journalists for inaccuracy or what may be regarded as unfair reporting points is, by itself, unacceptable in any modern democratic country. 

“It is all the more disappointing that Timor-Leste, a democracy, has such laws and highlights the need for urgent law reform.

“All our organizations have campaigned globally against criminal defamation and other laws that permit the jailing of journalists for their reporting. In fact, the global standard in functioning democracies is a strong move away from such oppressive laws.”

The letter concludes: “It is our belief that the criminal charges pending against journalist Oki Raimundos and the Timor Post threaten a wider chilling effect on the East Timorese media. 

“With reporting on issues related to your leadership and governance at the heart of this issue, we again strongly urge you to exercise the power of your executive office to drop these misguided and potentially damaging charges.”

Timor Leste’s Coalition government has spent almost a decade silencing critics; throwing out foreign judiciary; attempting to silence local and international media and attempting to shut down local political rivals. 

In August 2015, outspoken government critic Mauk Moruk was gunned down and killed at the behest of the current government. His family never received an autopsy report. Moruk corpse had at least 41 bullet wounds. 

Meanwhile, friends and family of the Gusmao and the de Araújo governments have become rich as Timor Leste remains a poverty stricken nation.

Critics of the government believe the government will try to silence Opposition prior to the next election by shutting down the internet and controlling telecommunications.

Reportedly, Xanana Gusmao’s favoured nephew Nilton is attempting to buy Timor Telecom – Timor Leste’s largest telecommunications company.  Nilton has been made rich by oil contracts signed by his uncle almost a decade ago. The contracts were supposed to be illegally signed, however, the have stood the test of time. Nilton is now one of Timor Leste’s richest men along with his uncle’s other friends and cronies.

Foreign investigators and judiciary were thrown out of Timor Leste in October 2014 as they were gathering evidence of corruption against a swath of politicians.

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