22 August 2009

USAid-AusAid Spends Taxpayers' Money In Vain To ICFJ, Shout Journalists

Dili, Tempo Semanal Edisaun 152 17 August 2009 Timor-Leste and [other] post-conflict nations are in a good place because of international agencies and their friends who use taxpayers' money as donors to the people of these nations. As President of the Republic Dr Jose Ramos Horta told in an exclusive interview with Tempo Semanal on 13/08 in his office, "The majority of money that opens these programs is specifically managed through the institutions which the donors themselves choose. With this one I hope the donors will be honest to do an evaluation of their strategy," lamented Horta.

"This hasn't happened just to Timor-Leste, but also in Papua New Guinea, and the same in Afghanistan, Haiti, nations in Asia or Africa because fifty years ago they paid money from their taxpayers," appealed Timor-Leste's head diplomat.

During his visit to the kangaroo nation, the President of this young nation subtlely criticised its donors as follows in this news excerpt from ABC and The Australian on 28/07/09: "In the area that they [donors] spend much of their money, they claim that their spending in training is in the area of capacity-building. True, we greatly need this and definitely have a positive use for this, but if all of this money is used according to the way of increasing Timor's children's capacities, all the Timorese people should have found the title of PhD by now. At present we are all the same as Einstein," he jibed.

In the middle of 2006, an American came to sit, joust with, and capture part of the media in Timor-Leste through asking support from the ICFJ to win a project tender from USAID with the objective to force Timor-Leste's independent media and give the power of increased intelligence to Timor's children. "At the time STL recommended the ICFJ to win this project, but we also made it clear that the ICFJ must work with all the heads of this nation's media to be able to identify the problems and necessities of each media outlet, but when they won the tender, ICFJ worked according to their views alone," declared Domingos Saldanha, the Vice Director of STL newspaper.

At the time, the ICFJ gave US$1.8 million within two years. Maybe if they'd used this money today, the children of Timor-Leste's journalists would have already assumed specialist roles in their areas and the media institutions will not ask further from the government to buy copies of their newspapers to distribute to the villages.

The ICFJ's Director in Dili told that their project has found great success, though they themselves recognise that the ICFJ doesn't succeed in working with all of the media. "We work together with many media outlets, although not with all," he feigned. Mr Rice told this newspaper that their program has found great success. "We have already given training to many journalists from newspapers and radios."

This boss of the ICFJ said their [his] organisation has given small funding to media outlets.

But Domingos Saldanha, who is also the President of TLPC hopes ICFJ may extensively support newspaper distribution to villages in Timor-Leste, but he has already waited and waited two years, and lives as if one of his dreams are broken. "We also asked them to distribute the newspaper to villages, but until now, they've not yet done it."

Although [despite] the young Fourth Government of Timor-Leste has already contributed to the development of its media and facilitated the distribution of information from newspapers (STL, DN, and TS) to over four hundred villages within Timor. Because of this, the President of the Timor-Leste Press Club said ICFJ has come not to help the media to distribute information, but just to spend Australian and American taxpayers' money. "I think the Australian and American taxpayers' money which helps the media in Timor-Leste through USAID and AusAID and their partner ICFJ spends funds but doesn't give benefits to the media and people of Timor-Leste."

According to information which this newspaper has found, the ICFJ told the following, "from the five years' funding of US$5.6 million, 79.88% was spent in Timor-Leste. The remaining 20.12% was spent in our building in Washington through managing the project within Timor."

This shows that the money paid from American taxpayers' has been partly broken off in Washington, to a total of US$1,120,000.00 and the rest which came to Timor-Leste also was used to buy airplane tickets, perdiems, car rental, large salaries and house or hotel rental and air-conditioning for their international staff. Indeed, the journalists and media of Timor-Leste initiated a project for international people, and the result has been that American and Australian taxpayers' money has been spent to keep the journalists and media of Timor-Leste lacking, according to international people's reports to Canberra and Washington.

"I demand that USAid and AusAid stop their project to ICFJ because it spends taxpayers' money but never gives support to the media's work. And more, they steal journalists from media already in Timor-Leste to work with them for the purpose of giving negative impact to the media in this nation."

"Because ICFJ doesn't have a system of work which is good for the journalists' capaicities, the local media outlets in Timor-Leste demand indeed that international agencies such as AUSAID, USAID and UNDP stop at once support to the ICFJ because they don't have the will to develop Timor's media."

In the same place, Domingos empathises and gives full support to the community radio networks which now are victims of ICFJ. "Our part faithfully agrees with the declaration of our friends in the radio community who say they intend to resign and not work together with ICFJ because the ICFJ's system of work doesn't give benefits to Timor's media, but they use the Timorese media like a project to look for money and take back to their land."

Beginning in the month of November 2006, the ICFJ established itself in Dili. STL and other media outlets rejected co-operation with this international institution. ICFJ always campaigned to use community radio as a good toy [(spinning) top] to throw against the media which don't co-operate with their program. But beginning in a day last August, the honey moon was over from a venom which didn't just make ICFJ weak, but also inhibited AusAID and USAID's capacities because of declarations from Community Coffee Radio (Ermera), Voice of Tatamailau Community Radio (Ainaru), Voice of Matebian Community Radio (Baukau), Manatutu Community Radio and also Rakambia Community Radio (Dili). The five community radio stations declared, "together [we] protest and reject to co-operate together with ICFJ when the ICFJ doesn't show goodwill and professionalism to the journalists' capacities."

Radio Rakambia's manager, Eurico Pereira lamented that ICFJ has already failed its mission. "I see the ICFJ has failed because they bring unprofessional people and don't have the capacity to come and give training to journalists because many journalists' associations in Timor-Leste now reject working together with their program."

He elaborates that, "Radio Rakambia has also declared that ICFJ doesn't have goodwill to help journalists' capacities [and] ICFJ violates established agreements and because they've had the money since back when they signed the contract with us five." He explained that, "In May 2008 Radio Rakambia attempted to co-operate with the ICFJ to establish an accord to send Radio Rakambia journalists to training at ICFJ. In line with this accord between these two groups, after training finished those journalists would return to conduct their work at Radio Rakambia. Because of this, Radio Rakambia sent five journalists to training at ICFJ, but after they up-skilled they became members of the ICFJ without giving recognition to Radio Rakambia."

This isn't the last time this situation has happened, but in the past it's also occurred to a journalist and editorial chief at Tempo Semanal, whose cost was passed on by Tempo Semanal not publishing part of their editions in 2007. "Because of this, I may decidethat in the future we will reject ICFJ's support," Eurico confidently stated. With this occurrence, he demands that donors such as USAID and AusAID conduct an evaluation of the ICFJ's work.

Although the majority of media organisations and journalists lament the ICFJ's work and have delivered their concerns to the donors but the people with the money pretend and dramatise the situation before they can hear from the keepers of media in Timor-Leste—such as the head of AusAID—to sing a voiceless song in vainly defending the ICFJ's money, as they said in response to this newspaper's questions. "Australia feels happy with the results of ICFJ's work for this period. Although some journalists haven't accessed this program, journalists who participate give positive accounts about the ICFJ's programs. As with Timor's children, Australia greatly supports media freedom and independence. They also want us to continue our collaboration with USAID to continue supporting this program," said Ali Gillies of the Australian Development Assistance Program in Timor-Leste.

But Nelio Isac, TVTL's editorial chief tested AusAID's honesty in saying, "If ICFJ says they've increased journalists' abilities, then show us their results and show us the journalists who they've assisted". Nelio informed donors that, "The things that ICFJ does is to recruit those who aren't journalists, but they find people from another place to train and then send a report to their donors, stating they've given training to Timor-Leste's journalists".

"I think that community radio stations have the right to reject and not want to work with the ICFJ because we all know that the ICFJ's yet to do anything to Timor's media," he said.

The TLPC's Vice-President said the organisation's position is that, "In recent memory the Press Club hasn't wanted to co-operate with the ICFJ because the Press Club has the principle that it doesn't want to begin a project for other people, but if the ICFJ has money and wants to develop the media, they should co-ordinate with media organisations to give training to their members who work in the print media, radio, and television according to each media outlet's necessities – not according to the ICFJ's desires."

The TLPC's President, Domingos Saldanha, agreed with the community radio stations' declaration in saying that, "The ICFJ's system of work isn't professional because it is based upon their perception that ICFJ doesn't have the will to develop the East Timorese media, but they only want to use the local media to make a project with their program."

Baucau Community Radio declared Voice of Matebian Radio totally rejects the mechanism which the ICFJ uses to control Baucau Community Radio; one can see the ICFJ's intervention through the Regional Media House, which [they want to] assume the position of a Community Radio Board, and doesn't recognise the actual board and management team of Baucau Community Radio. Baucau Community Radio also recited, "The ICFJ's intervened to rehabilitate the RCM's studio through the Regional Media House; they don't co-ordinate and have never given recognition to Baucau Community Radio to become an independent and self-structured media outlet." He also appealed to USAID and AusAID to investigate the case. "[I] ask the international organisations which support the ICFJ's program to conduct an evaluation of their program, particularly with the program to develop journalists' capacities." According to the Director of Baucau Community Radio, he also doesn't understand about the Media House's use: "Who is responsible for this Media House and who will use it in the future, because the reality is that building these Houses in the districts will decrease the journalists' participation in their associations."

Other representatives from Coffee Community Radio in Ermera declared, "ICFJ discrimination because their internet installation system in the Coffee Community Radio office isn't the same as the installation in the Regional Media Houses; and regarding expenditure on radio that they wrote in the memorandum of understanding, until now Coffee Community Radio has not been able to know the amount or subjects of their expenditures." Consequently, Coffee Community Radio will not agree to any intervention from external groups. "Coffee Community Radio doesn't want to co-operate with the ICFJ. Coffee Community Radio also will not offer their support towards the ICFJ, and also do not want to have other people bringing their name to sell at random to donors for other peoples' purposes," he declared.

Timor-Leste Media Development Centre member Zelia Fernandes said ICFJ doesn't have the goodwill to develop local media. True, they should have a capacity-building role with journalists, but the reality we see shows a different face because the formation they've given to local media doesn't benefit journalists. "As we all know, they're now building Regional Media Houses in all districts, but they themselves don't know that if their contract finishes, then how will they finish the program," In addition to this, Zelia also called attention to, "Associations which are involved in Regional Media Houses are like veils behind which ICFJ intends to realise their objectives." Coffee Community Radio states that, "In the near future Regional Media Houses build the ICFJ's ability to oppress Coffee Community Radio."

In this way, Manatutu Community Radio's manager, Laurentino S. Freitas said via telephone that the ICFJ's work system "doesn't have a work system that is transparent."

"We will ask the for ICFJ to repair their work mechanism and, if not, community radios will not collaborate with them, including Manatutu Community Radio."

ICFJ aways changes the programs it's already planned according to their desires. Rita Barros of Ainaro Community Radio said the ICFJ said they would place a Regional Media House and radio station in Maubisse, but just suddenly they changed back to Gleno (Ermera district) and didn't clarify; because of this, Ainario Community Radio delivered a petition to ask the ICFJ's clarification."

On Monday August 17, the UNDP again attempted to use some media organisations and East Timorese journalists to establish a Timor-Leste media institution project, but TLPC and some media outlets rejected the attempt.
East Timor Directory

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