On March 14, the Timor Leste Press Council met with the Legal Aid Institute and the Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) and signed cooperation agreements to work together to enhance efforts to protect journalists and press freedom in Indonesia and Timor Leste. IFJ affiliate, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Jakarta chapter supported the establishment of LBH Pers.
The Timor Leste Press Council chairperson, Virgilio da Silva Guterres, said the organisation needs to increase the skills of handling lawsuit or trials of journalists or the media. Since the establishment of the Timor-Leste Press Council in 2016, the organization has received complaints from sources, plagiarism case, and labour dispute. The number of press complaints, including the breach of code of ethics, as well as the threats to journalists is predicted to increase in the coming years. Therefore, it is essential for the Timor Leste-Press Council to increase its capacity, including the role of the organisation as expert witnesses in cases involving press. Based on the law system in Timor Leste, the recommendation from the Press Council will be take into account in any legal process or in the court trial.
The collaborative agreements are a starting point for the Timor Leste Press Council to better understand how to advocate for press freedom and appropriate stakeholders to support freedom of expression. Under the first programme, the Timor Leste Press Council will send six activists to Indonesia for two weeks to learn about different press cases. They will also intern with LBH Pers.
Ade Wahyudi, the Executive Director of LBH Pers, said the agreement will strengthen the network. The organisation will collaborate more with different agencies in the near future to improve its capacity.
Chairman of AJI Jakarta Asnil Bambani said: “We will support this partnership and will encourage all attempts to protect the press freedom. Aside of that we will always show our solidarity to our colleagues in Timor Leste and take a part in maintaining the press freedom in our neighbouring country.”
The IFJ said: “Building and strengthening the network is one of the key in the efforts to safeguard freedom of the press. This partnership will improve the capacity development for the Timor Leste Press Council which will play a crucial role to support good journalism and press freedom.”