Moves in Timor Leste to put a concrete curtain around media are precisely the wrong approach in a fledgling nation flexing its own freedom muscles, Civil Liberties Australia says.
Timor Leste needs to re-think repressive media proposals
Barring Australian journalists from reporting in Timor Leste without government permission is not press freedom, Civil Liberties Australia’s CEO, Bill Rowlings, said today.
Proposed laws in TL would exclude freelancers and independents…in fact, anyone not full-time employed by ‘old’ media for at least six months, he said.
The TL government is also proposing a stacked press council to rein in any journalists reporting things the government doesn’t like. Citizen journalists and social media would be easily curtailed under the proposed rules.
“The government is mimicking the repressive media rules in Indonesia as exemplars, instead of adopting the principles that apply in Australia and USA,” Mr Rowlings said.
“It wasn’t the Indonesian media which clamoured for TL freedom when they were invaded by Indonesia: it was Australian journalists who not only helped keep the fight alive for decades.
“Some Australian journalists lost their lives trying to ensure truth was told in TL, and to the wider world.
“The TL government would insult Australian and other journalists if it brought in the repressive rules that are planned.”
Civil Liberties Australia calls on the TL government to abandon the proposed laws and to hold wide-ranging consultations.
These should involve foreign journalists, including from Australia, as well as local media people, plus politicians and community representatives with wide experience of various types of media environments.
“TL is a small country, but it can be a leader of nations in how it treats its media, and the freedoms of expression that media and TL people enjoy,” Mr Rowlings said.