Subject: Protest to UNMIT by Jose Antonio Belo, Journalist
PROTEST BY JOSE ANTONIO BELO, JOURNALIST
Your Excellency SRSG Atul Khare
On April 18th 2008 I was approached by United Nations police investigators who said they wanted to interview me in relation to stories I have worked on involving the rebel leaders Major Alfredo Reinado and Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha.
They asked me to sign a document agreeing to be a witness in the ongoing investigations into February 11th attack. I declined to sign the document and was told if I did not appear for an interview at 9.30am on April 22nd 2008, an arrest warrant would be issued.
The UN investigators say they wish to ask me about the 2006’s incident of exchange of fire involving Reinado and F-FDTL at Fatuahi, which I filmed for Australia’s SBS Dateline program; and a phone interview with Salsinha from last week, also for Dateline.
That work is already in public. I refer the investigators to those programs for all the information they need.
I did attend at the police station at the appointed time, with lawyers, (to comply with the Timor-Leste laws and follow the rules of journalism).
My fear was that they wish to seize my phone contacts and my film archives and interrogate me about my sources.
Although I decided to come but it was really upset me because my personal feeling was that it was a kind of pressure or intimidation to the press. And it makes me start to think that East Timor’s media should not be intimidated by UN-endorsed threats of arrest or possible jail for failing to disclose information.
The UN should be a model for human rights. It should not attempt to violate media freedoms.
I was one journalist. The investigation team was many. I should not have to do their jobs for them.
I don’t understand what are the 1,400 UNPol in East Timor Mission for. Are they here to Questions Journalist’s sources?
I thought that the UNMIT has violated the UNSC resolution in East Timor.
I believe that UNMIT is not performing the tasks that it is mandated to do. As a Timorese citizen as well as journalist, I have been frustrated with UN missions in Timor-Leste since the previous mission of UNTAET. After 8 years of avoiding journalists questions that I am now of the opinion that UNMIT must turn itself to bestow a better and well-informed answer.
I believe that UNMIT is more interested in good relations with the Government than it is with good relations with the citizens of Timor-Leste. As a result, it is neither:
1) Lack of transparency of its activities when questioned by Timor-Leste media and civil society.
2) Unaccountable to the people of Timor-Leste who it is here to assist and support.
Has the United Nations Security Council given UNMIT a budget of $150 million/year to do nothing? What has the money actually been spent on other than fuel for its cars and flights for its staff?
UNMIT is governed by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1704 25 August 2006 and UNSCR 1082 25 February 2008.
An analysis of the mandates exposes questions which I and other journalists never get answers to and suggests that UNMIT is performing very poorly.
The state of Timor-Leste is a member state of the United Nations. This makes the people of Timor-Leste shareholders in UNMIT. As such I demand answers from those that run UNMIT. If I do not get the satisfactory answers I will continue to boycott all of SRSG Khare’s press conferences as the other Journalist have done in the recent weeks. I did not see why I should assist the leadership of UNMIT in communicating a series of white lies and half truths to the people of Timor Leste.
Let me analyse the mandates and as question related to the Media as it is stated in UNSCR 1704 25 August 2006 point:
“(l) To provide objective and accurate information to the Timorese people, particularly regarding the forthcoming 2007 elections, while promoting an understanding of the work of UNMIT, and to assist in building local media capacity;”
Does UNMIT provide accurate informations? Sometimes yes and many times no. I am sad to say it but often times I believe that UNMIT does not tell the truth because it is more worried about the reaction of the Government or the incompetent of UNMIT leaderships that it is about providing “objective and accurate information to the Timorese people”.
Why would I as a journalist accept offers of capacity building assistance from an organization that has this sort of behaviour?
What capacity building have they done? Nothing!
If UNMIT is so interested in developing good relations with the media in order to facilitate capacity building why is UNPOL insisting on false and unhelpful harassment of a cameramen, producer for SBS Dateline TV Australia and Tempo Semanal’s chief editor with regards to obtaining information on sources. Confidentiality of media sources is a cornerstone of good journalism and yet UNMIT and UNPOL seem determined to attempt to corrupt the integrity of some journalists in Timor-Leste.
This shows the UNMIT is trying to jeopardy the media in East Timor but I truly believe that “You can’t kill the true story”.
I Demand UN to defend journalist’s rights and don’t squash them.
I Demand UNMIT to follow UN charter and uphold the UNSC resolutions to protect the journalists not to violate the journalist right “in East Timor”.
I Demand the UN hypocrites to do your job and Protect journalists don’t attack them as the UN staffs done in East Timor even confiscated journalist video tape and break journalist Camera.
Remember, “JOURNALISTS HAS THE RIGHT TO INTERVIEW, MEDIA HAS THE RIGHT TO PUBLISH AND THE PUBLIC HAS THE RIGHT TO KNOW”.
Dili, 02 May 2008
Jose A. Belo Cameraman for SBS Director of Tempo Semanál Weekly
1. East Timor President, H.E. DR. Jose Ramos Horta 2. East Timor Prime Minister, H.E. Mr. Xanana Gusmão 3. East Timor Parliament Speaker, H.E. Mr. Fernando Lasama 4. East Timor Prosecutor General, H.E. Mr. Longuinhos Monteiro 5. The Head of Provedor Direitus Umanus, H.E. Mr. Sebastião diaz Ximenes 6. Under Secretary General for PKO, Mr. Jean Marie Guehenno 7. UNMIT Human Rights Section 8. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 9. All Media in East Timor. 10. Journalist San Frontiers 11. East Timor Press Club