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AUSTRALIA: Police end investigation into Balibo Five journalists' killings

The Balibo Five - justice still denied after a wait of almost 40 years. Image: National Archives of Australia/AFP/Getty

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Item: 9023

SYDNEY (The Guardian / Pacific Media Watch): Australian federal police have dropped their investigation into the murders of five journalists who were killed by Indonesian special forces while on assignment in Balibo, Timor-Leste, in 1975.

Journalists Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Anthony Stewart, Gary Cunningham and Gregory Shackleton became known as the Balibo Five after their murders, and the chief suspect in their killings was former Indonesian cabinet minister, Yunus Yosfiah, said to be the most decorated member of the Indonesian military.

Australian federal police announced that they were dropping the case today because of “insufficient evidence to prove an offence", The Guardian reported:

“During the investigation the AFP identified challenges associated with establishing jurisdiction. The investigation continued in an effort to overcome those issues,” it said.

“As a result, the AFP has exhausted all inquiries in relation to this matter and will be taking no further action. The AFP has had ongoing consultation with the families throughout this complex and difficult investigation.”

Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the investigation was on shaky ground because the police had been investigating the Balibo Five murders for five years but had not once bothered to ask the Indonesian government for assistance during this period.

According to The Guardian, there was ample evidence to show that the journalists were killed and who they were killed by.

A 2007 NSW coronial inquiry "found that the five men were shot and/or stabbed deliberately by Indonesian forces, including Christoforus da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah, in order to prevent the journalists revealing Indonesian special forces had participated in the attack on Balibo. The deaths were 'not in the heat of battle' ", the coroner said.

After killing the Balibo Five, the Indonesian regime destroyed the journalists' bodies, then spread disinformation that the men were killed during combat.

Roger East, an Australian journalist who travelled to East Timor later on in 1975 to investigate the killings of the Balibo Five, was also killed by the Indonesian military.

The Guardian reported that Ben Saul, barrister and professor of international law at the University of Sydney said the AFP needed to explain their decision, given that the New South Wales coroner had already said there was enough "legal basis to commence a prosecution".

Saul, who acted for the journalists' union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) at the NSW inquiry, said the police had failed to “satisfactorily” explained if they had investigated the case fully.

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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