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PFF - Veto the New Media Law in Timor

Rarotonga Cook Islands Wednesday 1 June 2014—

Veto the New Media Law in Timor

The new media law in Timor-Leste should be vetoed by the country’s President, agrees the Pacific Freedom Forum.

PFF is backing the veto call from La'o Hamutuk, the Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis, an independent development watchdog, joined by the Pacific Media Centre, other NGOs and journalists.

“Timor-Leste has had a free media for the last decade, as noted by La'o Hamutuk, for the first time in 500 years of colonialism,” says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

That new law risks returning the young country to colonial style repression, she warns.

“Freedom for East Timor was won with the blood of countless thousands, including constitutional freedoms of speech,” says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

“This new law disrespects their sacrifice, and threatens the future stability and prosperity of East Timor.”

Government drafted the laws last year based on media regulations in Indonesia and Portugal, and passed them last month.

“It is disturbing that the government East Timor is considering using laws similar to its former colonial masters to impose oppressive restrictions on its own citizens,” says Gabi.

Speaking from Port Moresby, she called on the government to submit its media law to independent review.

“It is not too late for government to delay implementation of the law and seek full and proper consultation with those affected.

“Credibility of the current East Timor administration depends on it seeking and implementing feedback on this new law.”

She praised the courage and leadership against the law from journalism pioneer José Belo, who has repeatedly stated that he will not register under the new laws, and would rather go to jail.

PFF co-Chair Monica Miller said that comments from an official at a World Press Freedom Day event last month were a disturbing indication of government’s intentions under the new law.

At a seminar at the University of Timor-Leste, the head of a parliamentary committee, Carmelita Moniz, said that any evidence of corruption should be sent directly to authorities and not published first in the media.

“This suggests that the government fails to see conflicts of interest resulting from suppressing information that concerns itself,” she says.

BACKGROUND
The new law has been described in media reports as among the world’s most repressive.

The laws include a restrictive definition of a journalist that would exclude freelance journalists, independent journalists and student journalists.

Only individuals employed by a recognised media outlet and who must have served at least six months as an intern in a media organisation will be allowed to work as a journalist.

It bars journalists from working for political parties, NGOs or government departments from being registered and accredited as journalists.

It also requires foreign journalists to get a special permit before reporting from Timor-Leste and restricts foreign ownership of any form of media to 30 percent.

ENDS

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