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

TIMOR-LESTE: Restrictive media law ‘unconstitutional’, says appeal court


Investigative journalist Jose Belo … applauded the court ruling. Image: Pacific Scoop archive

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Item: 8922

Ted McDonnell

DILI (Pacific Scoop / Pacific Media Watch): Timor-Leste’s controversial media law has been declared unconstitutional by the country’s Court of Appeal.

The fledgling nation’s President Taur Matan Ruak refused to promulgate the restrictive laws last month and sent the media bill to the Court of Appeal questioning whether it was unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeal found that a number of articles within the media law were contrary to East Timor’s Constitution. The law will now return to the National Parliament to be revised or abandoned.

East Timor’s leading investigative journalist, Jose Belo, applauded the court’s decision.

“The courts today have upheld our constitution, which we fought so hard for. This is a victory for the East Timorese people,” an elated Belo said. “The government is trying to stop freedom of the media and freedom of expression.”

Belo said that the decision by the Court of Appeal was no surprise.

“From day one we said the media laws were unconstitutional. It would now seem our politicians need help from the lawmakers to understand what the constitution means,” he added.

‘Won the battle’
“It will now go back to the National Parliament, so we have won the battle but we are still to win the war.”

Belo has no doubt the media law was created to restrict local and foreign journalist reporting on East Timor’s plague of corruption, nepotism and financial mismanagement.

The law would also restrict who could be called a journalist in East Timor and potentially prevent foreign journalists reporting within East Timor.

East Timor, an island nation 600 km from the northern tip of Australia, gained its freedom from 24 years of Indonesian rule in 1999 and its full independence in 2002. The country suffers from high unemployment, poverty and malnutrition.

One leading East Timor lawyer said the President could still promulgate the law, if the necessary changes were made by the Parliament.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who has been a key promoter of the media bill, is believed to be furious that the law has not been approved by the Courts.

Ted McDonnell is an independent journalist.

 

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

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.
(cc) Creative Commons


Comments

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.