Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Asia Pacific Report

EAST TIMOR: Timor-Leste Press Club backs two journalists under house detention over crash story

Friday, October 26, 2012

Item: 8136

Joao da Costa

DILI (The Independente / Pacific Media Watch): The Timor-Leste Press Club is standing behind two daily newspaper journalists who are facing legal proceedings regarding their stories about a traffic accident in Oe-Cusse last year.

Raimundo Oki from The Independente and Oscar Salsinha from Suara Timor Lorosa’e are under house detention from the prosecutor's office in Dili after they wrote a story about a car accident that killed three passengers, including a nine-year-old boy.

In the stories, a member of the victim’s family demanded a fair solution to the problem.

The story said the driver had fled to Indonesia after the accident.

The victim criticised the slow justice process in his district.

The prosecutor says the stories were wrong and considers them to be crimes.

The prosecutor uses article of “denounces slanderous” in the country Penal Code against the journalists.

"Denounces slanderous" says:

“Whoever, by any means, before an authority or publicly, aware of the falsity of the imputation complained of, publishes or causes to be made public allegations that a certain person is suspected of having committed a crime, with the intent that it initiate criminal proceedings against the person shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or a fine;  if the false imputation refer to illegal or disciplinary infraction, the penalty will be extraordinarily attenuated; and if the events described in the preceding paragraphs are intentional mind-promoted by some official in charge of establishing the relevant proceedings the penalties are increased by one third in its minimum and maximum.”

Oki and Salsinha received house detention letters from the prosecutor a week ago.

They both are not allowed to go abroad while their cases are yet to be solved through the justice process.

Press Club president Paulino Kintas said his organisation gave its solidarity to Oki and Salsinha who were facing the court process.

He said the accusation against the two journalists represents a serious issue for the freedom of expression in the country.

It is also a challenge for Timorese’s media, Kintas said.

Kintas asked all newsrooms in the country to give their support to their fellow journalists in any situation.

Meanwhile, director of The Independente Mouzinho Lopes de Araujo said his newsroom had not received any official letter from the prosecutor's office informing him of the case facing his journalist, Oki.

He said he felt sad because his newsroom did not know about the prosecutor's investigation of Mr Oki until it issued the detention letter.

But he said his team would never let Oki stand alone in this difficult situation.

The newsroom will always be with him in facing the justice process, he said.
“We are doing everything we can including finding a lawyer to defend our journalist in court,” he said.

Lopes said he considered the Indepemdente's story on the issue to be balanced and ethical.

He said Oki had fulfilled his obligation as a journalist to inform citizens about the justice process.

He said using article of “denounces slanderous” in the country Penal Code against the journalists was dangerous for freedom of the press in Timor-Leste.

Editor-in-chief of Suara Timor Lorosa’e Domingos Saldanha said his newsroom was following the process.

He said there was a mistake in the story published in his newspaper because there was no balance.

Saldanha said based on the Indonesian media law that was still used in Timor-Leste, the prosecutor had the right to give a response first before bringing the journalists to court.

[Translated from Tetum].

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Pacific Media Watch

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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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