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Timor Journalists Adopt Code Of Conduct

Timor Journalists Adopt Code Of Conduct For Elections Fairness Sought In Reporting

DILI, EAST TIMOR, August 6, 2001 - The Timor Lorosa'e Journalists' Association (TLJA) adopted a code of conduct for its members to follow during the ongoing election campaign in East Timor, the association announced today. The voluntary code is an effort by TLJA to encourage its members to behave in a fair and responsible manner during the territory's first free elections.

Taking into account media codes of conduct for elections from the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Zimbabwe, and other countries TLJA is urging its members to use the code as a guide to election coverage both during the campaign and on election day, August 30. The polls will elect a Constituent Assembly that will help guide East Timor toward full independence.

The aim of the code is to assist Timorese journalists in maintaining careful balance in their reporting while avoiding taking sides in political debates. The Asia Foundation also assisted TLJA in drafting the code.

There are now two independent daily newspapers in Dili and three weekly newspapers, along with several community radio stations and a handful of district newspapers serving the new country. TLJA is assisting its members by monitoring violations of journalists' rights, promoting journalist ethics, coordinating training schedules and helping to improve the printing infrastructure in East Timor.

TLJA President Virgilio Guterres said the election reporting code can also be used as the basis for complaints from the public regarding election-related coverage by any TLJA members. The association is offering to serve as a mediator in any disputes that may arise from the elections between the political parties or candidates and the privately owned media in East Timor. Parties and candidates can lodge complaints to the TLJA Secretariat in Dili.

TLJA was founded in December 1999 to represent journalists in East Timor, shortly after the end of Indonesian rule. Its members are drawn from both the private media and the UNTAET-owned print and broadcast media. At a National Congress held in January 2001, the association pledged to work toward the creation of an independent press in the territory free from political interference or vested interests.

Timor Lorosa'e Journalists' Association (TLJA) Code of Conduct

1.TLJA journalists shall not be part of any political party structure.

2.TLJA journalists shall report in a balanced manner. If a candidate makes an allegation against another candidate, the journalists should seek comment from both sides wherever possible.

3.As far as possible, TLJA journalists shall report the views of candidates and political parties directly and in their own words, rather than as others describe them.

4.TLJA journalists shall do the utmost to correct any published information that is found to be harmfully inaccurate.

5.TLJA journalists shall not wear political party paraphernalia when reporting.

6.TLJA journalists shall avoid using language or expressing sentiments that may lead to further discrimination or violence on any grounds, including race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins.

7.TLJA journalists shall not accept any inducement from a politician or candidate.

8.TLJA journalists shall not make any promise to a politician about the content of a news report.

9.TLJA journalists shall take care in reporting the findings of opinion polls. Any report should wherever possible include the following information: Who commissioned and carried out the poll and when; How many people were interviewed, where and how were they interviewed and what is the margin of error; What was the exact wording of the questions.

10.TLJA journalists must make a clear distinction between editorial and opinion pieces with regular reporting.

11.TLJA journalists may report on ongoing vote counting as long as there is clarity that the number is not the final count. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will issue the official tally.

12.On voting day (August 30, 2001), TLJA journalists shall not ask anyone for whom they voted for, before or after the ballot.

Election Media Mediation Panel Markas Compound; Jl. Balide; Dili, East Timor Tel. 0409-692-014; 0408-065-074 -- mediapanel@undp.org Demetrio Amaral - Tel. 0408-065-074 Father Juvito Rego de Jesus Araujo - Tel. 0408-217-274 Lin Neumann - Tel. 0409-692-014

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