Two employees of a leading independent newspaper in East Timor were beaten up on 13 June by a gang of youths, reports from Dili say, in what journalists fear may be an act to further intimidate their sector amid spiralling violence in the country. Timor Post editor Carlos de Jesus, speaking with the Agence France Presse, said two of his staffers from the paper’s circulation and advertising departments were attacked just outside of their office in Dili.“The suspects, who were armed with stones, beat our staff members, who sustained non-critical injuries,” de Jesus was quoted by the AFP as saying. “It could be a form of intimidation.”
It was the first attack reportedly against the newspaper’s staff since East Timor descended into a civil unrest which killed 21 people in May.
De Jesus said the attack may have been linked to the Timor Post’s coverage of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, whose order to fire 600 soldiers from the country’s western region triggered the unrest. He has also been criticized for not able to prevent the unrest.
SEAPA sources in Dili said prior to the attack, the newspaper also received a warning from the government after it has published an interview with the commander of the sacked armed force.
Timor Post and other local newspapers also had their publications disrupted when the violence erupted on May 22 for fear of their staff’s safety. Timor Post only resumed its operation in the first week of June.
“Journalists are currently living in fears and have to impose self-censorship in reporting about both contending parties,” said the source.
International media advocacy groups have raised concerns over the safety of journalists in East Timor, some of whom remained displaced by the unrest, and appealed to both contending parties to guarantee the safe working environment for journalists and their independence in reporting about the current situation.