39 years on and still no justice for Balibo Five

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) expressing strong concern that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) hasn’t yet asked Indonesian authorities to help prosecute the people responsible for the murder of the Balibo Five. Yesterday marked the 39th anniversary of the murder of Australian journalists Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Tony Stewart, Gary Cunningham and Greg Shackleton in Balibo, East Timor.

In 2009, the AFP announced that it would conduct a war crimes investigation into the deaths of the Balibo Five. This came after the NSW Deputy Coroner Dorelle Pinch’s 2007 inquest into Brian Peter’s death had found that Peter’s, in company with the other slain journalists, had “died at Balibo in Timor Leste on 16 October 1975 from wounds sustained when he was shot and/or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle, by members of the Indonesian Special Forces, including Christoforus da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah, to prevent him from revealing that Indonesian Special Forces had participated in the attack on Balibo. There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the Head of the Indonesian Special Forces, Major-General Benny Murdani.”

In 2014, it was revealed that the AFP had not sought any cooperation from Indonesia and had not interacted with the Indonesian National Police. In 2013, MEAA wrote to Justice Minister Michael Keenan and the then AFP Commissioner Toney Negus about progress on the investigation and the responses was that it was ‘ongoing’.

MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said: “In 2007 the NSW Coroner named the alleged perpetrators involved in murdering the Balibo Five. The AFP has spent five years investigating the incident. And still there is no result. And still the AFP has not worked with the Indonesian authorities to pursue the killers and bring them, finally, to justice. Quite literally, those responsible for killing our journalist colleagues are getting away with murder,” he said. 

“The United Nations has identified impunity over journalist killings as a growing problem. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Resolution on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity at its 68th Session on December 18 last year. This landmark Resolution “condemns unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations” said Warren.

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said “The delay on action by the AFP is concerning, considering we marked the 39th anniversary of their deaths yesterday. Investigations have named those responsible; so action needs to be taken to ensure justice is finally served.”

“Impunity continues to be an issue globally, and we need to send a message to all that these crimes will not go unpunished. We urge the AFP and the Australian government to take action to finally bring these perpetrators to justice.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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