Statement by Max Stahl on Amy Goodman and the Santa Cruz Massacre
August 21, 2001
Dear WBAI and Pacifica,
I was present at the Dili massacre on the November 12 1991. I filmed the pictures which have been widely screened around the world ever since and remarked on by all sides in East Timor and Indonesia.
I am very concerned to hear that the courage and outstanding journalistic integrity displayed by Amy Goodman at the time and on this issue ever since, and even the historical record of these events themselves, has allegedly been called into question by responsible executives at WBAI and Pacifica.
Besides the images widely and repeatedly seen on TV, I also gathered much more information and filmed many other pictures that day.
These include pictures of Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman present at the Motael church during early morning mass just prior to the massacre. It was those who attended this mass in commemoration of a student murdered there by Indonesian police and irregular forces some two weeks beforehand who then marched to the cemetery where the student had been recently buried. There they were fired upon by Indonesian soldiers, who then beat and stabbed survivors, loaded the dead and wounded onto trucks, and finished off many still alive in the military hospital nearby using breeze blocks to crush their skulls and formaldahyde pills which they force fed them in handfuls.
Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn were in the crowd closest to the soldiers as they arrived, lined up, and opened up with automatic fire directly into the crowd. Alan had his skull fractured (he appeared in this state in the film I and Yorkshire TV made at the time) when he was hit by a soldier after diving with Amy into a ditch to escape the bullets. Her 'arrest' at the scene is a matter of public record as are the interviews they gave when they emerged the next day in the US (Hawaii or a Pacific island on the way home as I recall) having left the country.
There are good estimates of the numbers killed based on detailed investigation at the time by church and resistance sources who produced detailed lists of names which were compiled and cross checked by international Human Rights organizations. I myself selectively checked and further investigated these when I returned secretly to make another film and traced witnesses and families of those appearing in my film who had disappeared.
Amy has done an outstanding job over many years in her reporting of this and other related issues. The figures that she has used in her reports on this over the years have been conservative. Local soldiers involved in the killing later confessed to Nobel Peace prize winner Bishop Belo that 'more than 400' of these demonstrators were killed on that day and in the days following. Careful cross checking and investigation of selected cases (those I had hard evidence for in my pictures and eyewitness records) suggest this is about right. Hundreds of families in East Timor still have no idea what happened to their loved ones who disappeared that day. The figures of dead may well be higher. On the evidence they are very unlikely indeed to be lower.
How is it possible that responsible executives of a Radio Network with a reputation for journalistic integrity should call these events into question?
What information are they relying on? Are they willing to come forward and debate this matter openly?
These are not trivial events which may be distorted or dismissed with little consequence. They affect the fate of hundreds of millions currently engaged in struggle for basic rights in the Far East. Their legacy has a powerful effect on politics in this volatile region today.
The silencing of Amy Goodman's courageous and conscientious voice would be great loss to American broadcasting and to the American public. The manipulation or denial of the truth about a massacre of innocent people is outrageous in any context but coming from responsible Pacifica executives it is truly alarming.
If senior managers in such a notable US network are not prepared to inform themselves on such matters how can they be trusted to inform the American public on air?
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