|Subject: SMH: Here is the news ... from
your old colonial rulers
Here is the news ... from your old colonial rulers
By Louise Williams Sydney Morning Herald 26 December 2001
East Timorese journalists are dismayed over an agreement which will probably leave their newly independent nation without an independent national broadcaster and hands control of television and radio to its former colonial power, Portugal.
The protocol of co-operation between East Timor, and Portugal provides for Portuguese-language broadcasting in the new nation, where only the minority of older citizens speak or understand the language.
The document, which has not been made public, makes no mention of the most widely understood local language, Tetum, nor minimum local content requirements or training for East Timorese journalists. Control of the media is an important issue in East Timor which was subjected to strict censorship under Indonesian rule.
"Will we have to listen to the news from the other side of the world and yet be in the dark about what is happening in our own country," said Virgilio da Silva Guterres, president of the Timor Lorosa'e Journalists' Association.
One of the main criticisms of the agreement is that it leaves no role for other regional players, such as Australia, to help develop an independent national broadcaster more suitable to East Timor's geographic location.
Under the protocol, much of the radio and television content will be programming from Europe, with little relevance to the subsistence farmers of East Timor.
Local journalists also fear the protocol will not guarantee freedom of expression, one of the key pillars of a democratic political system. There are fears the newly elected transitional government will not be subject to sufficient scrutiny without a healthy, independent local media.
"The first thing Mr Mari Alkitari, the Chief Minister, should do now is to ensure East Timorese that there will be a public broadcast service in East Timor and that the Government will never try to influence the content of news," Mr Guterres said.
"Technical co-operation, like the protocol, are important measures we must take in the future, not just with countries like Portugal, but also with countries in the region, like the ABC of Australia."
The decision about which language the new nation adopts is also extremely important for its future, and its ability to establish itself in the Asia Pacific region. In the new Constitution, Tetum and Portuguese are set as the two national languages, but the majority of young people do not understand Portuguese and instead speak and understand Indonesian. The political elite, who occupy the senior government positions, were educated during the Portuguese period.
However, a Portuguese-language broadcasting service would be a problem for most of the population, many of whom do not want to go back to a European language.
Indonesian, which is close to the version of Malay spoken in Malaysia, is a widely used regional language.
"Will this mean our unique language disappears from broadcasting? Will Timorese voices ever be heard on the nation's own radio and television?," Mr Guterres asked.
The majority of young people argue they must also learn English if East Timor is to have any chance to engage internationally and to advance its fledgling economy.
The article appears to be full of misconceptions and inaccuracies and clearly misses the point. Part of the problem may stem from the fact that the article is a one-source analysis. Maybe some other views could have been included.
> Here is the news ... from your old colonial rulers
Clever title. But which colonial rulers do you mean? Portugal? Or do you mean the news from former colonial rulers Indonesia now fed daily to East Timor via Metro TV?
> East Timorese journalists are dismayed over an agreement which
Frankly, I have not heard the 'dismay' over the protocol. In fact some of the journalists I speak with are clearly supportive of the ONLY clear step that was taken so far by anyone, including concerned neighbor Australia, to ensure that media in East Timor has adequate mid to long term funding. The fact that Portugal is paying for it does not mean at all that Portugal will control the TV and radio. It is up to the Timorese to decided how each service is administered. Perhaps the dismayed journalists should show what other sources of support they have so far received...
> The protocol of co-operation between East Timor, and Portugal
provides for > Portuguese-language broadcasting in the new nation,
where only the minority > of older citizens speak or understand the
This is not the case at all. Firstly the protocol was signed by the Chief Minister - who was elected by a great majority of the East Timorese population - and does not make any detailed references to any of the issues mentioned above. This is a protocol under which the Portuguese will PAY and help set up - including through training, infrastructure construction and development - the services the East Timorese decide THEY WANT. Issues such as content, control and others are to be decided BY THE TIMORESE.
> "Will we have to listen to the news from the other side of
the world and yet
Virgilio is showing complete ignorance over the protocol. It is an agreement under which Portugal will PAY for the setting up of the service in East Timor. Not to get news from Portugal here. For that Portugal has other channels - such as satellite - and in fact both Portuguese TV and Radio are already seen and heard in East Timor without the need for this protocol. Louise Williams should have sought to find out first if any other "Regional players" are actually interested at all in supporting TV and Radio in East Timor. No institution from Australia has so far taken any steps to support media in East Timor, and by this I mean with strong finance that will ensure its survival mid to long term. The Australian diplomatic representative in East Timor has in fact publicly stated in the past that Camberra is not interested in supporting a TV in East Timor.
> Under the protocol, much of the radio and television content will
Completely inaccurate. The programming content will be decided by the Timorese and the protocol does not mention anything about this particular issue.
> Local journalists also fear the protocol will not
guarantee freedom of
Mr Guterres should watch the news in East Timor more closely. Mari Alkatiri has already and on more than one occasion guaranteed that the setting up of public TV and radio services in East Timor is a reality and a priority for the government. I frankly do not understand how a cooperation protocol can curtail freedom of expression...
> "Will this mean our unique language disappears from
Why does tetum disappear? Where does it say in the protocol that Portuguese is the only language that the service will be broadcast in? And where do these 'majority' suggestions come from?
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