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Timor: Political Violence, Mob Stones Journalist

As Political Violence Rages, Journalist Stoned by Mob, Receives Death Threats

BANGKOK (SEAPA/Pacific Media Watch) - A local Agence France-Presse (AFP) stringer, Nelson da Cruz, was struck in the face with a stone thrown by an unidentified youth while on his way to report a riot in Dili on 9 November 2006.

Da Cruz, who is also a journalist with Television of Timor-Leste (TVTL), was about to drive three friends to their house in Kampung Baru, Komoro, a Dili suburb, when he received a tip about a riot in the nearby Kolmera district.

Along the way, at the junction of Kolmera and Bebora, a group of youths armed with sickles and knives were stoning passing cars and trying to open the vehicles' doors. They managed to stop Da Cruz's car and asked whether he was from "Lorosae or Loromonu" (the eastern or western part of East Timor).

Da Cruz responded by identifying himself as a journalist. Dissatisfied, the youths repeated their question. As Da Cruz was about to reply again, one of them hurled a stone that struck his right cheekbone; another hit the car's window. When Da Cruz started to bleed profusely, the group let him go.

Da Cruz sought treatment at a hospital, where he received four stitches to his wound. He then reported the incident to the "Timor Post" office in Bebora, to the nearby "Suara Timor Lorosae" newspaper and to the AFP editor in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Since April, violence arising from differences between the eastern and western regions of East Timor has killed at least 37 people and driven 15 percent of the population from their homes. The United Nations police force is helping to restore order in this young nation with a traumatic past, which won independence from Indonesia only in 2002.

Da Cruz and his colleagues have been staying at their office since their houses were burnt down. They also fear for their lives, having received death threats.

Responding to the attack on Da Cruz, "Suara Timor Lorosae" Co-Deputy Editor-in-chief Domingos Saldanha appealed to the community to view journalists as their friends, saying that journalists would not engage in activities that harm the people.

"A journalist's task is to cover news stories from the community and transmit them to the public. As journalists, we do not distinguish [between races, or people of different ethnic origin] and religion . . . we always look at the people of Timor-Leste as one community," he said.


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