Subject: Lusa: Gov't freezes out newspaper over report of famine deaths

East Timor: Gov't freezes out newspaper over report of famine deaths

Dili, Feb. 25 (Lusa) - The government, angered by published reports of famine deaths it denies, has severed relations with one of East Timor's two daily newspapers, "Suara Timor Lorosae".

"It is our right to maintain relations with serious and independent media and not with propagandists that have no objectivity", Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri told Lusa Thursday, explaining the government's cutting relations with the newspaper.

Suara's deputy-director, Domingos Saldanha, said the official "blackout" against his publication was impacting its advertisement revenue but that the paper would not bow to "power pressure".

The dispute arose after Suara, or "voice" in English, reported that 53 people recently died from hunger in the village of Hatubuiliko in Ainaro district.

The paper cited a local administrator, who said it was the second time in two years that famine had claimed lives in the area, as its source for the story.

Dili's state secretary for labor and welfare, Arsénio Bano, denied the report.

Bano acknowledged that about 20,000 people in that area faced food problems due to a lack of rains and delayed harvests, but denied there was a famine or that people had died from hunger.




Government orders eviction of major newspaper

Country/Topic: East Timor Date: 18 February 2005 Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Urgency: Threat

(SEAPA/IFEX) - East Timor's Land and Property Department has ordered the country's major and oldest local daily, "Suara Timor Lorosae", to leave its present premises in the capital of Dili within 60 days. Local media outlets believe that the move is in retaliation for the newspaper's constant criticism of the government.

SEAPA sources in Dili said that as part of its land appropriation plan, the Land and Property Department also asked other private companies and organisations situated near the "Suara Timor Lorosae" building to leave. According to the sources, some of those affected agreed to pay rent in order to retain their offices.

Salvador J. X. Soares, the newspaper's publisher and editor-in-chief, said he received the Land and Property Department's order in early February. Soares told SEAPA on 18 February that the order was a manoeuvre aimed at silencing his newspaper. "I will resist the order and see what will happen to my newspaper," he said.

The eviction order followed a number of threats made against the newspaper by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's office. Alkatiri is known for his intolerance of critical media. According to Salvador, "Suara Timor Lorosae" has received telephone calls, threats to close down the newspaper and other forms of press freedom violations from Alkatiri?s office.

On 17 February, Alkatiri was quoted by local newspapers as saying he would ban "Suara Timor Lorosae" from covering his press conferences. He reportedly also urged people not to buy the newspaper.

Since 2003, "Suara Timor Lorosae" has been locked in a battle with the government over property rights regarding the building. "Suara Timor Lorosae" claims the building was given to it by the local authorities in 1993, when the country was still under Indonesian rule. At one point, the building and printing press were totally destroyed by militants. They were restored in 2000 by "Suara Timor Lorosae", in the post-independence period.

The president of the Timor Lorosae Journalists' Association (TLJA), Virgilio da Silva Guterres, told SEAPA that the TLJA would investigate the matter to see if the government's eviction order stemmed from the pending legal battle or was a manoeuvre to curtail press freedom in the country. Virgilio said that the TLJA disagreed with the prime minister's 17 February speech against "Suara Timor Lorosae". "This bodes ill for the country's burgeoning press freedom," he said.

"Suara Timor Lorosae" is one of two daily newspapers in East Timor. Subscriptions to newspapers in East Timor are limited by the country's low literacy rate and transportation bottlenecks. But newspapers play a major role in fostering intellectual and political debate and development that is much needed in the country's rebuilding process.


For further information, contact Kulachada Chaipipat at SEAPA, 538/1 Samsen Road, Dusit, Bangkok, 10300 Thailand, tel/fax: +662 243 5579, e-mail:, Internet:


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