Subject: The Australian: Licensing Plan For East Timor's Journalists [+Award]

also: Reporter takes the prize as presenter of Timor award

The Australian Thursday, July 17, 2008

Licensing plan for East Timor journos

Gary Evans, Dili

A UNITED Nations-sponsored lawyer has recommended that journalists in East Timor be licensed to practice and that defamation be included in the country's criminal code.

Isabel Duarte, a Portuguese lawyer, was appointed by the UN Development Program at the Government's request to participate in workshops conducted throughout the country by Kolkos -- the commission for media law in East Timor.

Her recommendations were made to Kolkos at a national workshop in Dili last week.

Dr Duarte said that throughout the country journalists told her they recommended licensing to ensure professionalism of the occupation.

To establish such licensing, an institution funded by the East Timor parliament, but not covered by government regulations, should be established. It should consist of journalists and media representatives from print, radio and television with an independent chair, she said.

An urgent priority of this body would be to form a code of ethics to reflect the present situation of journalism in East Timor.

Journalists would be licensed if they were high school graduates with one year of good practice in journalism.

The licensing body would also provide a mechanism in the form of a press council to deal with public complaints and to provide an alternative dispute resolution process other than going to court.

The body would have control of subsidised government support to the media and ensure this support did not entail favouritism or discrimination. Dr Duarte said any general media law adopted by the Government should include defamation in both the civil and penal codes and a freedom of information regime to allow access to public documents. That proposal has already triggered a stern response from East Timor's Journalists Association.

Spokesman Virgilio Guiterres said journalists were ``appalled'' that defamation could be included in a penal code.

East Timor's deputy chief government prosecutor, Ivo Jorge Valente, supported the inclusion of defamation in the penal code but said it should not be considered in isolation.

The Government has suggested that laws covering other areas should also fall within the criminal code and could and should affect how journalists and the media operated.

These included publications that affected state security or breached privacy controls -- particularly concerning photography and recording -- and private material on the internet.

Other laws would prohibit phone or mail tapping and publishing material to incite racial hatred or violence.

The president of the national parliament's committee that has been asked to frame the draft laws, Fernanda Borges, stressed further consultation would be required before any final recommendations were made to parliament.

Dr Duarte would be involved in the further consultation process and Kolkos' assistance would be essential to framing suitable laws.

Ms Borges urged journalists to have the courage and commitment to form a self-regulatory body like the ones that existed in many democracies. She said the creation of such a body required discipline and professionalism and it was essential the media be prepared to criticise itself to be credible.

Kolkos president Otelio Ote said he welcomed the opportunity for further discussion on licensing and criminal defamation.

If the Government proceeded to include defamation in the penal code, it might be necessary to find another way to make journalists free to do their job, Mr Otelio said.

Kolkos was hopeful the parliament would accept the Kolkos position that defamation should not be a crime.

Gary Evans is a member of the Australian Press Council. He attended the Dili workshop with the assistance of AusAid.


The Australian Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reporter takes the prize as presenter of Timor award

Staff reporters

THE Sunday Herald Sun's Paulie Stewart says he is the first to see the irony about him presenting a prize at East Timor's first Media Awards on July 26.

``Given that I failed the journalism course at Melbourne's RMIT twice I am sure there are a few old lecturers and editors of mine who would be outraged by such events,'' the entertainment writer said. ``Obviously, I will be there for my family connection, not my journalistic skills.'' Stewart, is the younger brother of Tony Stewart, one of the five newsmen killed at Balibo in East Timor in 1975.

Also attending the awards in Dili will be Australian-born Hollywood actor Anthony LaPaglia and members of the Underbelly cast, who star as the slain journalists in the new big-budget movie Balibo, which has started shooting in East Timor.

LaPaglia will appear as Roger East, a sixth Australian journalist killed by the invading Indonesians, in the movie written by David Williamson and directed by noted AFI winner Robert Connelly.

As well as presenting an award, Stewart will be performing several songs with his band The Dili Allstars.

``I lost Tony in 1975 but Gil Santos is my Timorese brother and my long-time musical colleague,'' he said. ``I am also grateful to Rob Connelly for getting us on board as musical consultants on the new movie.''

Stewart and Santos will present Dr Dan's Medical Clinic in Dili with funds raised by a CD they produced called Hau Abut (I Am Woman), featuring 16 Australian top female singer-songwriters. including Rebecca Barnard and Kerri Anne Cox.

The awards are sponsored by five Timorese journalism organisations and raise money for their Media Trust Fund.

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