11 September 2010

Media and Security in Timor-Leste

Fundasaun Mahein Press Release, 5 Sept 2010 - According to Fundasaun Mahein (FM), most media outlets in Timor-Leste, print media and electronic media alike, publish coverage of events that are only based on rhetoric from meetings or seminars or workshops, which the media shares as news without any checking of the factual evidence of the statements made in these meetings and seminars and workshops.

Not very often, does the media receive documentary evidence to confirm the true nature of the statements being provided. This makes the media, in certain cases, seem weak in their presentation of evidence of factual news being published. Often times, their reporting is obscure, and in the end, has the potential to create conflict in the community.

Based on FM investigations, we can say that, Suara Timor-Lorosae (STL) publications during have victimzed at least 11 people, six of them being female senior high school students, as well as at least 4 Institutions, two of them being government institutions.

The publication on 13 Juli 2010 created a problem in the community between the FALINTIL veterans and the PNTL Commander of the Dili District, Pedro Belo, and STL. FM underlines that the conflict between STL, the Veterans, and Commander Belo, was a provocation caused by the coverage of journalists who have no security and defense background.

FM notes that many media outlets in Timor Leste do not task the correct journalists to the right situations. Sometimes those journalists with an education and entertainment background are tasked to cover news about security and defense issues. An obscure role for journalists also causes different methods of coverage and analysis on defense stability and internal security.

Therefore, FM acknowledges that STL in its reporting, quite often provokes political conflict. The conflicts victimize many people, not just the Veterans, politicians, and PNTL. The recent coverage from STL also victimized students who were photographed and then kicked out of school.

FM calls upon all media to make a positive contribution to peace and stability in Timor-Leste, and to practice peaceful journalism which is not oriented towards provocations. FM invites the media outlets to increase the capacity building for their journalists, especially when covering security and defense issues, so they produce better quality news reports.

Therefore the media needs to undergo a paradigm shift in their practice of journalism, to contribute to democracy and peaceful reconciliation.

Several of STL’s reports have created conflicts between the Veterans, PNTL Dili District Commander Pedro Belo. In order to counter this conflict in the future, FM recommends to National Parliament Committee B, intervene in the future, if any similar reporting takes place, to get rid of pro-con opinions being disseminated in the community. FM also recommends the government forms independent investigation teams to find the hidden motives in all STL reports that cause conflict.

Propaganda has the potential to disrupt normal life by promoting false ideas and misinformation. Media institutions have a responsibility to the public to provide clear and factual information. It is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. STL’s recent reporting caused many in the community to be suspicious of their intentions, because of their relationship with United Heroes of Timor/Uni Timor Asuwai UNTAS. This is something the government, and other media outlets should investigate as well.

Fundasaun Mahein also recommends that a council of press be formed which can work together to solve any problems that arise from poor quality media reporting. FM also recommends that the media provide the facts they are basing their articles on, and not provide opinions about statements and documents, without labeling them as being Editorials.

For further information please contact Nélson Belo, Director Fundasaun Mahein, www.fundasaunmahein.wordpress.com, email.direktor.mahein[at]gmail.com , tlp +670 737 4222

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