Subject: ABC: Justice demanded for 'sixth Balibo journalist'

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News

June 11, 2007 -transcript-

Justice demanded for 'sixth Balibo journalist'

A protester outside the Balibo inquest Calls for inquest into death of sixth Balibo journalist

Anne Barker

As the Balibo Five inquest winds up, there are calls for another coronial inquiry into a sixth Australian-based journalist who was murdered in East Timor in late 1975.

Darwin-based newsman Roger East has become the forgotten man in the Balibo saga that has dragged on for more than three decades.

The 29-year-old's death has always been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the Balibo Five, yet there are claims he was deliberately murdered by the Indonesian military.

Mr East lived in Darwin in the months before Indonesia invaded East Timor in late 1975. When five Australian journalists were killed at Balibo in October that year, he quit his job to set himself up as a freelance reporter in Dili.

Over the next few weeks, he filed regular despatches to the outside world, including several reports to the ABC.

One of Mr East's closest friends in Darwin, then journalist Ken White, drove him to the airport the day he left for Dili. He remembers his friend's last words to him were, "I'll do my damnedest to find out what happened to the Balibo Five".

"He was very anxious to go to Balibo and find out the truth about the murders of the five Australian journalists," Mr White said.

"He said to me, 'Look, I'm going to buy a new pair of boots and I'll walk there if it's necessary'."


But Mr East never made it to Balibo. Far from unravelling the mystery of the Balibo Five, he too suffered the same fate. On December 8, he was shot dead on Dili's waterfront, apparently by Indonesian forces who had invaded East Timor the day before.

Mr White says he learnt of Mr East's murder from a Fretilin soldier or guerrilla.

"Apparently, the soldier did see his body opposite the Turismo Hotel," he said. "His wrists had been bound by wire and he was riddled with bullets."

He says Indonesian soldiers were responsible for the death, according to eyewitness accounts.

"One report that I did get was that Roger kept crying out, 'I'm an Australian journalist, I'm an Australian journalist,' but it didn't make any difference," he said. "They just shot him."

In the 32 years since, there has never been an official inquiry into Roger East's death, which has been largely overshadowed by the continuing controversy surrounding the Balibo Five.

Calls for justice

But in the wake of the Balibo inquest in Sydney, Mr White and others are demanding justice for Mr East.

Long-time Darwin activist Rob Wesley-Smith has written to the Northern Territory Coroner calling for a full inquest.

"We need to ask people to come forward who saw him being shot or who saw his body on the beach, or whoever it was who dragged it up and buried it," Mr Wesley-Smith said.

"These people are probably still out there or their relatives, and we need this kind of information now."

Mr Wesley-Smith denies an inquest would only come up with the same stonewalling and denials from Indonesia that has been witnessed at the Balibo inquest in Sydney.

"The Balibo inquest has been absolutely fascinating and a lot of information has come out, which was more than probably we expected," he said.

"I think the same sort of thing could happen with the Roger East inquiry."

NT Coroner Greg Cavanaugh has not ruled out an inquest, saying he will carry out his statutory duty to investigate Mr East's death if he has the jurisdiction to do so.

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