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East Timor's First Newspaper Bids Fairwell


By Bernard Estrade

DILI, East Timor, Jan 23 (AFP): Independent East Timor's first newspaper, "New East Timor," published with the help of Australian troops, bade farewell to its readers this weekend.

The weekly, published for the past four months in Tetum, the local language of the territory, as well as in Indonesian and English, rolled out its last edition on January 21, wishing its readers "a brilliant and happy future."

Chief editor Major Kent Beasley said 14 editions of the New East Timor had been published, and about 40,000 copies of each distributed throughout the territory.

The strongest circulation of 30,000 is for the Tetum version, followed by the Indonesian edition with 6,500 copies and English with 2,000.

In principle, the newspaper is free, but in fact, said Beasley, an artillery officer turned newspaper patron, it is often bartered in exchange for a few rupiah by the young paper boys who distribute it in market places.

The newspaper, a single sheet printed in black and white on both sides, has during the past four months been the only newspaper in East Timor giving local news and information, dominated by the activities of various non-governmental organizations.

It is disappearing with the departure of Interfet (International Force for East Timor) , the Australian-led force which restored law and order to East Timor and which will be replaced by troops under the UN provisional administration for East Timor (UNTAET).

The last editorial was devoted to the coming transition.

It explained that progressively from February 1 and beginning in the east of the territory, the changeover will be marked by the appearance of the blue helmets or bush hats of United Nations troops, rather than the drab green worn by the Australians.

A successor to the New East Timor will come out by mid-February, issued by UNTAET under the Tetum title of "Ha Buras Timor" -- meaning "Rebirth of Timor. "

The new paper, according to the man in charge, Mitchell Hsieh, will come out twice a week and will add a Portuguese edition.

And unlike the New East Timor, which literally rolls off the back of a

truck parked in the Interfet compound, Ha Buras Timor will be printed on an offset press in Darwin, northern Australia, and flown to Dili.

A selection of the 14 editions of the New East Timor tells the story of the first months of independence of this former Portuguese colony after 24 years of Indonesian military occupation.

That forced rule ended with the sacking of the nation and the forced deportation of three quarters of its population after East Timor voted

overwhelmingly for independence in August.

The headlines -- sometimes with typesetting errors and at other times a little clumsily phrased -- record the major events.

The first issue, dated October 22, introduces Interfet and carried the announcement "Indonesia agrees to East Timorese Independence."

The headline of the second edition was "Gusmao returns in triumph to East Timor, " above a huge photo of the living symbol of East Timorese resistance, Xanana Gusmao.

That edition, Beasely said, was an instant hit, with all copies snapped up as soon as they came off the truck. For many East Timorese it was the first photograph they had seen of their leader, newly released from jail in Indonesia. be/kw/ajp


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