Subject: AUS: Paper chooses its words carefully
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:22:18 -0400
From: "Helen M. Hill" <helenh@alphalink.com.au>

AUS: Paper chooses its words carefully By BRIAN WOODLEY in Dili

4th May 99

IN an atmosphere charged with emotion, sweat and printer's ink, the presses at Suara Timor Timur roared into life early yesterday morning, putting East Timor's only newspaper back into circulation. Its offices and equipment had been destroyed by a mob of pro-integration militiamen less than three weeks ago.

An editorial, headed STT Prints Again and starting "April's been a bad month for us", declared the newspaper understood and accepted that people would be critical of its policies.

It restated a commitment to an independent, neutral stance between those pushing for autonomy under Indonesia and those pressing for independence.

An extremely cautious front page, dominated by news quoting the statements of pro-integration leaders, was followed inside by messages from militia leaders and other figures, including bishop Carlos Belo, "advising" the paper on what it needed to do to guarantee its continuing survival.

All urged caution but the leader of the Besi Merah Putih (Iron Rod of the Red and White) Militia, Manuel de Sousa, also delivered a blunt warning that the paper should focus on his version of the truth in its news reporting and commentary. Jose Ximenes, 36, one of seven co-editors who worked late into the night to ensure the paper would avoid being too provocative, said STT would follow the urging of Bishop Belo that it try to emit a sense of peace and not be too radical. He quoted the bishop as saying the true story of East Timor involved all parties and should not exclude anyone.

"The situation is extremely volatile. It's better to just get the news out than not at all," Mr Ximenes told foreign journalists.

Asked what he knew of the general situation in the annexed province, he said: "It is worse now than ever before, bad, very dangerous. It is a climate of fear."

Production difficulties and concerns that some vendors might be too afraid to display the paper prevented the first issue reaching its usual print run of 8000.

STT, put out of action on April 17 by militiamen thought to be from the Dili-based Aitarak (Thorn), received an anonymous telephone threat on Sunday, in which the caller spoke of the militias' continuing "hatred" for the paper.

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