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East Timor: Australians Probe 1975Journalist Death

Australians Probe 30-Year-Old Death Of Journalist In East Timor

SYDNEY (AFP/Pacific Media Watch): An Australian coroner agreed Tuesday to open an inquest into the death of a journalist killed along with four others while covering an attack by Indonesian troops on an East Timor town in 1975.

Television cameraman Brian Peters was one of five Australian-based journalists killed during the attack on the Timorese border town of Balibo in October 1975.

Official reports maintained the men -- Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Malcolm Rennie and Peters -- were killed in crossfire, but their families insist there was a cover-up and they were murdered by the Indonesians.

There have been two inquiries into the incident, in 1996 and 1999, but no formal inquests have been held.

Peters' sister, Maureen Tolfree, requested the inquest a year ago and New South Wales state coroner John Abernethy agreed on Tuesday to hear the case.

Tolfree's lawyer Robert Dubler said he believed there are as yet unheard eyewitnesses to the deaths and he hopes the inquest will travel to East Timor, which gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002, to hear their evidence.

"The deaths of the Balibo Five have been controversial and, despite occurring some 30 years ago, have been the subject of continuing public interest," Dubler said.

"Given the additional new material which is now available ... an inquest will necessarily provide greater illumination of the circumstances surrounding the deaths than has hitherto been provided to the Australian public and relatives of the deceased,"he said.

Indonesia launched a full-scale invasion of East Timor on Dec. 7, 1975.



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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