The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) this Monday asked the Prime Minister of Timor-Lest to stop defamation charges against two Timor Post journalists and to immediately release them.
In a letter sent on 22 August, the IFJ urged the Prime Minister, Mr. Rui Aria de Araújo, to stop the defamation charges against Timor Post journalist, Raimundo Oki, and former editor of the newspaper, Laurenco Martina Vincente, and to set them free as a matter of urgency.
The defamation charges were related to a factual error in a report made by Oki on November 10, 2015, regarding a government’s tendering process when the Prime Minister was an advisor to the Minister of Finance. The Timor Post printed Araújo’s denial of any illegal activity on the front page of the November 17, 2015 issue. A clarification of Oki’s report was also published on November 18.
Despite the newspapers due diligence, Araújo has persisted with the defamation charges. Since April 11, 2016 the case has sat in the State Prosecutor’s office with a decision to lay criminal charges pending.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said, “The fact that in Timor-Leste criminal law allows the investigation and prosecution of journalists for inaccuracy or what is deemed unfair reporting is unacceptable in any democratic nation. Moreover, it is even more disappointing to note that Timor-Leste, a long-fought-for democracy, has these laws at all. Timor-Leste’s democracy should be strong enough to permit a free and robust press. This case unfortunately highlights the on-going crack down on the country’s media freedom and freedom of expression.”