Subject: Brit MPs demand justice for two newsmen killed 30 years ago

Press Gazette (UK)

MPs demand justice for two newsmen killed 30 years ago

Published: Thursday, June 23, 2005

By David Rose

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is facing MPs' demands to help clear up the mystery surrounding the slaying of two British newsmen 30 years ago.

Reporter Malcolm Rennie and cameraman Brian Peters died in October 1975 when they went to Balibo, East Timor, on assignment for Kerry Packer's Australian Channel Nine, to investigate reports that Indonesian forces were invading the country.

Three newsmen from the rival Australian Channel Seven, Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, and New Zealander Gary Cunningham, also met their deaths.

At first, it was claimed that Rennie and Peters were caught in a crossfire between rival factions in East Timor's civil war.

But papers since released by the Australian government suggest they came into contact with the invading force. The documents show the Australian government knew about the invasion beforehand and the British government was informed.

Hopes that the truth may finally be unveiled have been given a boost by the opening in Australia of an inquest into Peters' death.

The inquest has been adjourned until later this year and will get underway next year.

Meanwhile Don Foster, Liberal Democrat shadow media minister, is spearheading a demand for Straw to honour a promise to the relatives two years ago "to obtain justice".

A Commons motion, backed by MPs in all parties - and covered by Parliamentary privilege - "notes that the Foreign Office considers that British citizens Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters, who died at Balibo, East Timor, on 16 October, 1975, were murdered".

The motion accuses the Indonesian authorities of blocking a United Nations investigation into their deaths and calls for "prompt and effective action".

Foster told Press Gazette: "Until we get a definite answer as to how these two newsmen were killed, and who was responsible, we intend to keep up the pressure. It is unacceptable that we haven't had full-scale work by the UK government, working with the Australian government and the United Nations security forces, to get a definite answer."

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