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East Timor Support Group Slams Media 'Hypocrisy'

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DARWIN (Pacific Media Watch): A Darwin-based East Timor lobby group has called on the Indonesian military to free detained American journalist William Nessen, allow journalists to do their job, and to respect human rights.

It also called on the military (TNI) to "ensure the safety and wellbeing of Nessen", said a media statement today by the Australians for a Free East Timor group criticising media "hypocrisy" over the crackdown in the province of Aceh.

The media release followed yesterday's posting of a Jakarta Post report, "Media blasts curbs in Aceh", on the Pacific Media Watch website and listserve.

The statement by spokesman Rob Wesley-Smith criticised the June 28 Jakarta Post report on media condemnation over curbs on reporting by failing to mention detained journalist William Nessen.

"Nessen is being treated like a non-journalist, not only by the TNI but by his colleague journalists, and it seems now by the US government which urged him to 'surrender' to TNI forces," Wesley-Smith said.

"As a journalist on a journalists visa, he should never have had to 'surrender', and should not have been in danger and targeted by TNI. After all he was just doing his job.

"When one reads the media had an 'obligation to observe and tell our readers what is really going on in Aceh', and concerns of a lack of public scrutiny over the war, then one has to ask how is that to happen if no journalist can observe at close quarters the GAM and villagers.

"The same thing happened in East Timor, which was a closed area from 1975 to 1989. When journalists and outside activists got to report from inside, the true situation of massive human rights abuses by the brutal TNI occupation was laid clear for all to see.

"William Nessen also reported on East Timor from the mountains, no doubt beginning the enmity shown by the TNI.

"William Nessen is from that rare class of investigative journalists who is prepared to put his life on the line to present the true story. That is quite different to saying his life is worthless or is expendable - in fact the opposite is the case.

"Australians for a Free East Timor call on the Indonesian Government and its military the TNI to treat all people in Aceh fairly and with proper regard to human rights, to allow journalists to do their job properly, and in particular to ensure the safety and wellbeing of William Nessen and to free him from detention. We call on the USA and the Indonesian journalists to support this call."

More information: Australians for a Free East Timor Box 2155 Darwin NT 0801 61 8 89832113 0419 807175



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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