Mob attacks AFP stringer in Timor-Leste

alerts-button-1.jpgA local AFP stringer, Nelson da Cruz, was stoned in his face by an unidentified youth while on his way to report a riot in Dili on 9 November 2006.

Da Cruz, who is also a journalist with Television of Timor-Leste (TVTL), was about to drive three friends to their house in Kampung Baru, Komoro, a Dili suburb, when he received a tip about a riot in the nearby Kolmera district.

Along the way, at the junction to Kolmera and Bebora, a group of youths armed with sickles and knives were stoning passing cars and trying to open the doors. They managed to stop Da Cruz’s car and asked whether he was from – “Lorosae or Loromonu” (east or west of Timor-Leste).

Da Cruz responded by identifying himself as a journalist. Dissatisfied, the youths repeated their question. As Da Cruz was about to reply again, one of them stoned his right cheekbone; another stone hit the car’s window. When Da Cruz started to bleed profusely, the group let him off.

Da Cruz sought treatment at a hospital, where he received four stitches for his wound. He then reported the incident to the “Timor Post” office in Bebora, the nearby “Suara Timor Lorosae” and the AFP editor in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Since April, violence arising from differences between the eastern and western regions of Timor-Leste has killed at least 37 lives and driven 15 percent of the people from their homes. The United Nations police force is helping to restore order in the young nation with a traumatic past, which won independence from Indonesia only four years ago.

Da Cruz and his colleagues have been staying at their office since their houses were burnt down. They also fear for their lives, having received death threats.

Responding to the attack on Da Cruz, “Suara Timor Lorosae” Co-Deputy Editor In Chief Domingos Saldanha appealed to the community to view journalists as their friend, saying that journalists would not engage in activities that harm the people.

“A journalist’s task is to cover news stories from the community and transmit them to the public. As journalists, we do not distinguish [between races, ethnic origins] and religion . . . we always look at the people of Timor Leste as one community,” he said.

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