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EAST TIMOR: RSF protests expulsion of journalist


EAST TIMOR: RSF protests over expulsion of journalist

Australian Journalist Expelled

http://www.rsf.org

PARIS (RSF/Pacific Media Watch): Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) protested at the East Timor government¹s expulsion of Australian freelance journalist Julian King even though a court in Dili had cleared him of charges brought by the police.

King, 43, was deported to Australia on June 28 on the orders of the interior ministry - the first major violation of press freedom since East Timor gained its independence in 2002.

The appeal court had ordered the return of King¹s passport, refused to remand him in custody and ruled that the police did not have sufficient evidence against him. King had been accused of ³subversive² activities.

The only established wrong committed by King was that he upset the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, said the international press freedom organisation, expressing dismay that the authorities had not respected the East Timor court ruling that King was not guilty.

This contempt for the courts did nothing to enhance the standing of the country¹s first democratic government, it said. Reporters Without Borders has written to President Xanana Gusmao asking him to intervene to allow the journalist to return.

On arrival the same evening in Darwin, Northern Territory, King said that he would appeal to the East Timor Supreme Court. His Timorese lawyer, Pedro de Oliveira, said the expulsion flew in the face of the evidence. He told the Associated Press: "The government is trying to cover up the fact that it lost this case before the court. This means that the government is stronger than the court.²

The authorities in Dili have so far refused to confirm that King has been expelled despite some officials having been engaged on a campaign to discredit King who has lived in East Timor for more than four years.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri had successively accused King of taking part in the torching of his house and of destabilising government institutions. Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta accused Reporters Without Borders of being a ³racist² organisation for defending King.

The government has also tried to cast doubt on King¹s journalist credentials. However, Reporters Without Borders has been able to check with Australian radio stations 2SERFM, 3CRFM and 4ZZZFM and the Australian Television News Agency that King did indeed work for them in East Timor.

King, also a PhD student, was one of very few foreign journalists to speak the official language Tetun, which made it possible for him to closely follow political events in the country. He was arrested on 5 May 2004 close to his Dili home.

Police officers, including a former member of the Indonesian military, allegedly planted munitions in his bedroom and seized a number of files particularly on corruption and about the Timor Gap agreement that allows Australia to exploit a significant part of the Timor Sea¹s gas and oil reserves. +++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE http://www.pmw.c2o.org

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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