Subject: LH: Text of UNTAET gag rule
From: Charles Scheiner <>

The following is the full text of a recent UNTAET directive which prohibits UNTAET mission personnel from communicating with anyone about the mission or other issues related to East Timor for the rest of their lives, unless they have specific written permission from top UNTAET officials.

This document was shared with La'o Hamutuk by an UNTAET staffer who is alarmed by the culture of secrecy and isolation that pervades the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor. La'o Hamutuk encourages others who believe that the East Timorese people have a right to know how their country is being governed to share information.

Charlie Scheiner, ETAN/IFET (temporarily with La'o Hamutuk in East Timor)

UNTAET / United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor Information Circular 89/00

Date: 29 December 2000

To: All UNTAET Personnel

From: Paul Thompson, OIC Administration

Subject: Boards of Inquiry and Release of Information

All UNTAET Personnel are herewith reminded of their responsibilities concerning Boards of Inquiry and release of information, as follows:

a. all personnel, military and civilian, irrespective of seniority, have the obligation to cooperate fully with any Board of Inquiry convened by the Head of Mission. In the absence of such cooperation, the Head of Mission, in consultation with the Director of Administration, will take appropriate steps to ensure that the fact finding process of the Board of Inquiry is not hampered or compromised;

b. all personnel have to observe the Code of Conduct at all times and to make every effort to be courteous towards their colleagues;

c. no information, which is internal to the Organization can be released, distributed or disseminated by any means, to third parties without the prior written approval of the Head of Mission and/or the Director of Administration; and

d. personnel should not communicate to any person outside the Mission any information known to them by reason of their service with the Mission, unless they have been authorized in writing to do so in the course of their duties. In particular, personnel should not discuss with any person outside the Mission or communicate in their private correspondence any observations relating to military installations, troop movements or other matters affecting the host country or opinions they have formed about the political life of local inhabitants. These obligations do not cease upon completion of the assignment to a mission, and discretion should continue to be exercised in all matters relating to the mission.

Your cooperation and support in adherence to the above will be appreciated.


Poster's additional comment: I find it telling that point (b) directs UNTAET personnel to be courteous to their colleagues, but says nothing about the East Timorese people the Mission is ostensibly helping on their way to independence. The irony is compounded by point (d)'s reference to the "host country" -- one which has no current government other than UNTAET.

An East Timorese Cabinet member I asked about this memo acknowledged that he had received it and that it applied to him as "UNTAET Personnel." He indicated that he still intended to speak freely to the press and to the people of his country. But most lower-level UNTAET workers may not ignore directives like this because they fear repercussions.

Charles Scheiner, U.N. Representative International Federation for East Timor in East Timor: +61-0417-923273 Internet: and PGP Key available on request.

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