09 November 2017

The story of 5 Australian journalists killed during the Indonesian invasion of Timor-Leste

Image of the Balibo 5 house in East Timor. 5 Journalists were murdered here by the Indonesian security forces in 1975.
Photo: Tribunnews.com
!WARNING! MACHINE TRANSLATION  (slight human edits) ORIGINAL INDONESIAN TEXT Tribunews Berita Noticias Timor-Leste - The story of 5 Australian journalists killed during the Indonesian invasion of Timor-Leste

We must be brave like the five journalists, dare to fight the real enemies of the people such as corruption, nepotism, and abuse of power in government.

Already 42 years have passed since five Australian journalists were killed in the small town of Balibo, near the border of Indonesia and Timor Leste. The journalists were there to cover the Indonesian invasion of Timor Leste in 1975.

Here's the full story quoted from Asia Calling Production Program Radio News Agency (KBR).

Several buildings in the north of the city were seen used by the Indonesian military to execute Timorese. Now the houses are left dormant and a reminder that is not easily forgotten of the Indonesian occupation.

This small town has significance for Timor Leste as it is adjacent to the border. Residents of Balibo recalled that they had seen many conflicts. "This is an important history to be remembered by me as a student because at a difficult time they give up their lives," he said.

In 1975, five Australian journalists came here to cover the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and they were shot dead. No one knows for sure what happened that day, but it is believed they were deliberately targeted and killed. Surprisingly, no one is sued for their deaths.

Now 42 years later, people are busy preparing for the event to commemorate the five journalists.

Events are held from the tournament football to the concert.

"To me this is very sad and disturbing. Not just because they are Australians, who are actually Australians, New Zealanders and British. But also the fact that this is where the Indonesian invasion began after they crossed the border, "said an Australian.

After the bloody invasion of 1975, East Timor was under Indonesian occupation until 1999. Amnesty International estimates that during the occupation of about 200,000 Timorese, nearly a third of the population, died of starvation and violence.

Beatiz Silava Santos, 44, said the occupation and the deaths of five foreign journalists were never forgotten here. "I was a kid then. I did not see directly when they are killed. But it is still important for me to remember the event even though I know it from others, "said Beatiz.

The five journalists who died in Balibo at the time were Garry Cunningam, Greg Shackleton, Brian Peters, Tony Stewart and Malcolm Rennie. In 1975, they painted an Australian flag on the wall of the building where they lived. They hoped it would provide protection from the brutality of the Indonesian military. But their hopes did not materialise.

In 2003, the building was made the Balibo Community Learning Centre, which was established in honour of the journalists.

The Coordinator of the Learning Center is Alipe dos Santos. The road was peppered by gunfire at his feet during the Santa Cruz Massacre of 1991. At that time there was a confrontation between the Indonesian military and East Timorese demonstrating demands for independence in Dili.

"As a resistance fighter, I want to dedicate my life to supporting the museum and the memories of the five journalists killed here. I regard them as part of Timor because they dedicated their lives to East Timor's Independence, "Alipe said.

In the building is also an office of Balibo House Trust that supports the community by providing various facilities and programs such as dentists, education and training of mechanics.

Raimundo Oki, one of the few investigative journalists in East Timor, was inspired by the story of the five journalists.

"As an East Timorese journalist we have to be brave. Because Timor Leste is a very new country, a small country with a small population. But we have natural resources. We must be brave like the five journalists, dare to fight the real enemies of the people such as corruption, nepotism, and abuse of power in government, "said Raimundo.

Democracy in East Timor is new and few journalists are courageous or skilled enough to tell a challenging story.

Virgilho Guterres of the Press Council of Timor Leste said the story of five journalists in Balibo was an inspiration to a new generation of journalists. "What we need to learn from them is the spirit of sacrifice. Although they are from a foreign country, they love their profession. We need to learn from them about it, "explained Virgilho.

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