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ETAN urges dropping of defamation charges against East Timorese editor

Contact: John M. Miller +1-718-596-7668

January 26, 2009 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today called on Timor-Leste's (East Timor) prosecutor-general to drop criminal defamation charges against the local weekly Tempo Semanal and its editor, Jose Belo.


Jose Belo at work in the Tempo Semanal office. Photo by Charles Scheiner/ETAN.


"Tempo Semanal and Jose Belo should not have to face charges under this obsolete and repressive law," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "We urge the prosecutor-general to immediately drop any charges."
In October 2008, Tempo Semanal published an article alleging that Timor-Leste's Justice Minister Lucia Lobato had improperly awarded government contracts to friends and business contacts. The report cited leaked mobile phone text messages. Lobato filed the defamation charges in November, accusing the paper of breaching her privacy and violating the ethical code of journalists.


"Rather than attack the messenger, Timor-Leste's leadership should support freedom of expression and encourage a dynamic, investigative media."

Belo argues that his publication wrote only about Lobato's performance in her role as a public official, not her private activities. "

"Information about government activities should not be subject to defamation laws. Rather than attack the messenger, Timor-Leste's leadership should support freedom of expression and encourage a dynamic, investigative media," said Miller.

The government of Timor-Leste has proposed decriminalizing defamation under a new penal code. Although drafted several years ago, it has not yet been enacted. 

Timor-Leste's criminal defamation statutes are a leftover from Indonesia's criminal code. Journalists and activists in Indonesia are still charged with criminal defamation, although the 1999 Press Law created a body to adjudicate disputes involving the press.


Justice minister Lucia Lobato with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. Photo from Tempo Semanal.


Belo was notified of the defamation charges in mid-December. On January 19, he was questioned for 3 hours by the prosecutor's office. Tempo Semanal was told by the Office of the Prosecutor-General that they would not be given copies of relevant documents because they are confidential. 

In an interview with ABC Radio Australia,  Jose Belo, Tempo Semanal's founder, said "we don't have any money or any resources. So we can't fight a person who has influence [and] who has money. So I presume it is very, very difficult to win this case in the court."

If convicted, Belo could face fines or prison. During Indonesia's brutal, illegal 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste, Belo was imprisoned or arbitrarily detained many times for passing information about human rights violations to foreign journalists and human rights groups, for a total of about three years. It is ironic that in democratic, independent Timor-Leste he could face double that time for exposing government corruption.
The Office of the Prosecutor General, Longuinhos Monteiro, has reportedly told Belo that the truth of what he published in his newspaper is not relevant to the charges against him and will not be admissible in court. This contradicts legal precedent set in April 2006, when the same prosecutor, charged Yayasan HAK (a human rights NGO) with defamation. accusing him of abuse of power by interfering with the justice process in a case where HAK served as the defense attorney. In that case, a judge ruled that the defamation charges could not be adjudicated until the original case was resolved. That case was brought to trial. Under that precedent, the allegations of corruption against the Minister of Justice should be tried before the defamation case, but the prosecutor has not begun a legal case against her.

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. For more information, see In April 2006, ETAN urged then-President Xanana Gusmao to veto the criminal defamation provisions of the proposed penal code.

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ETAN litik atu hasai akuzasaun defamasaun hasoru editor Timor oan

Kontaktu: John M. Miller +1-718-596-7668

16 Janeiru 2009 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) ohin husu ba Porkurador Jeral Timor-Leste atu hasai akuzasaun krimi defamasaun hasoru Editor  Tabloid Semanal, Tempo Semanal nian, Jose Belo..

"Tempo Semanal no Jose Belo labele hetan akuzasaun bazeia ba lei tuan
ne’ebé la appropriuno repressivu” John M. Miller, Koordenador Nasional ETAN nian hatete "Ami litik prokurador jeral atu hasai  akuzasaun hirak ne’e imidiatamente” "
Iha Outubru 2008,  Tempo Semanal
publika artigu  alega katak Minstra Justisa, Lucia Lobato impropriamente fo kontraktu governu nian ba  ninia maluk empresariu sira. Reportajen ne'e mos hatudu mensagem liu husi telemovel. Lobato hatama kazu akuzasaun defamasaun ne’e iha fulan Novembru hodi akuza katak Tempo Semanal viola ninia privasidade no mos viola kódigu  etika jurnalista nian.

Belo hatete katak publikasaun ne’e hakerek kona ba Lobatu nia lala’okiha ninia serviconudar officiais publiku, la’os atu interfere ninia aktividade privadu.”

"Lei defamasaun labele inklui hotu informasaun kona ba aktividade governu nian. Do que ataka ema ne’ebe lori informasaun (jornalista) sira, ulun na’in sira tenke for suporta baliberade da espressaun no fo koragem ba media ne’ebé dinamiku no invesitigativu,” Miller hateten

Governu Timor-Leste proposta ona atu dekriminaliza lei defamsaun tuir kódigu penal foun. Lei ida ne’e seidauk aplika to’o ohin loron  maske proposta ona tinan hirak liu ba.

Krimi defamsaun iha Timor-Leste hetan husi kódigu  penal Indonesia nia durante tempu okupasaun. Jurnalista no activista sira iha Indonesia sei hetan kastigu
ba krimi defamsaun  maske Lei Imprensa 1999 kria ona orgaun ida atu resolve problemas nebe involve imprensa.

Belo simu noticia kona ba krimi defamsaun iha fulanDezembru nia klaran. Iha loron 19 de Janeiru 2009,  edificiu prokurador nian inkere nia durante oras tolu nia laran. Edificu Prokurador Jeral hateten ba Tempo Semanal katak Tempo Semanal sei la hetan dokumentus
ne’ebé relevante ba ninia kaju tamba dokumentus hirak ne’e konfidensial.   

Durante intervista ho Radio ABC Australia, Jose Belo, fundador Tempo Semanal nian hatete katak  “ami laiha orsamentu ka rekursu seluk.  Ami labele luta hasoru ema
ne’ebé iha inflensia maka’as no mos iha osan”. Hodi nune’e, hau hanoin katak dificil tebes atu manan kaju ida ne’e iha tribunal.”

Se hetan konviksaun, Belo bele multa ou kastigu iha prizaun. Iha tempu okupasaun illegal Indonesia nian durante tinan 24 nia laran, Belo hetan kastigu no detensaun durante tinan tolu tamba hato’o informasaun ba jurnilsta no groupu diretus humanus kona ba violasaun direitus humanus
ne’ebé akontese iha Timor-Leste. Tanba ne’e, ironiku boot ida wainhira iha sosiedade Timor-Leste ne’ebé demokratiku, independente, nia bele hetan kastigu tan tanba publika governu ninia korupsaun.
Porkurador Jeral, Longuinhos Monteiro, hatete ona ba Belo katak lialos kona ba buat
ne’ebé Belo publika iha Tempo Semanal la relevante atu hetan akuzasaun hosru nian, no sei admisivel iha tribunal. Ida ne’e kontráriu ho decisaun ne’ebé halo iha Abril 2006. Prokurador Jeral iha tempu neba akuzaAssociasaun HAK ho defamasaun. Iha kazu ida ne’e juis decide katak akuza tribunal labele decidi defamasaun wainhira kazu orijinal seidauk resolve. Tuir decizaun tribunal ba kazu ida ne, algasaun kona ba korupsaun hasoru Minstra Justica tenke lori ba tribunal, maibe prokurador to’o ohin loron seidauk komesa procediemntu legal kona ba kazu ida ne’e hasoru Lobatu.

 ETAN hala’o advokasia ba demokracia, justica, no direitus humanus ba Timor-Leste no Indonesia. Atu hetan informasaun seluk tan, visita Iha Abril 2006, ETAN litik Presidente Xanana Gusmao [iha tempu neba] atu veto provisaun kona ba krimi defamasaun iha proposta kódigu penal foun.


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