Subject: 85 Journalists, Academics Protest Over Criminal Defamation Case


Background to the case: 

AUCKLAND (ACIJ/Pacific Media Watch): More than 80 prominent Australian, New Zealand and Pacific reporters, editors and media academics have protested over the controversial criminal defamation case against East Timorese journalist Jose Belo.

Chief editor Belo has been charged followed publication of an article in his newspaper and online publication, Tempo Semanal, making allegations against Justice Minister Lucia Lobato.

The open protest letter, under the umbrella of the Sydney-based Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), has been signed by 85 media industry and academic people ranging from the ACIJ's Professor Wendy Bacon to ABC Four Corners investigative journalist Liz Jackson, SBS Dateline's Mark Davis and British-based filmmaker and author John Pilger.

It is being sent to President José Ramos-Horta, in New Zealand this week on his first official visit abroad since being wounded in a rebel attack a year ago, and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

“While making no comment on the merits of [Jose Belo’s] allegations, we are disturbed by the application of criminal defamation laws against one of East Timor's bravest and most respected journalists,” the letter says.

“Belo's role in documenting the atrocities of the Indonesian occupation and disseminating that information to the international media is well known.

“Since self-government, Jose has emerged as one of the most productive, disciplined and independent journalists that East Timor has produced. He has become a key figure in the attempt to build a democratic media in your country.

“To be imprisoned by your government would be a great injustice to Jose and more importantly, a terrible precedent for all media in East Timor. Such laws criminalise and suppress good journalism, they help cloak corrupt and questionable behaviour of public officials and they diminish the reputation and international standing of the nations that apply them.

“We note that the laws under which Jose Belo has been charged are left over from the old Indonesian regime, and understand that new laws more suited to a democratic society have been drafted but have not been placed before your Parliament.

“We pledge our support to Jose Belo and all East Timorese journalists who may face imprisonment for the practice of their profession. We urge you to take all actions within your power to bring about the dropping of this charge and the removal of criminal defamation laws in East Timor.”

The letter is signed by:

1. Wendy Bacon, Professor of Journalism, University of Technology, Sydney

2. Liz Jackson, Reporter, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

3. Quentin Dempster, Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

4. Sarah Ferguson, Reporter, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

5. David Marr, Reporter, Sydney Morning Herald

6. Lesley Power, General Counsel, SBS Television, Australia

7. Chris Nash, Professor of Journalism, Monash University

8. Mark Davis, Reporter, Dateline SBS Television, Australia

9. Matthew Moore, FOI Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

10. David O'Shea, Reporter, Dateline, SBS Television, Australia

11. Mark Dodd Defence/Foreign Affairs writer The Australian newspaper

12. Tony Jones, Presenter, Lateline, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

13. Sue Spencer , Executive Producer , Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

14. John Pilger, Filmmaker and Author

15. Tom Zubrycki, Filmmaker

16. Debbie Whitmont, Reporter, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

17. Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, Melbourne

18. Mark Colvin, Presenter of PM, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

19. Professor Stuart Rees, Director, Sydney Peace Foundation

20. Richard Ackland, Editor, Justinian

21. Eric Ellis, Forbes Magazine

22. Tom Morton, Senior Producer, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

23. Peter McEvoy, Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

24. Margaret Simons, Journalist and Author, Content Makers and Crikey

25. Marni Cordell, Editor, New Matilda

26. Sophie McNeill, Reporter, SBS Television, Australia

27. Philip Chubb, Associate Professor in Journalism, Monash University

28. Sally McCausland , Senior Lawyer, SBS Television, Australia

29. Hilary McPhee, writer and editor

30. Jacqui Ewart, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Griffith University, New South Wales

31. Peter Manning, Adjunct Professor, University of Technology, Sydney

32. Hall Greenland, Editor of The Week, Australia

33. Professor Michael Fraser, Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney

34. Jock Cheetham, Journalist, Sydney Morning Herald

35. Olivia Rousset , Journalist

36. Melanie Morrison, Dateline, SBS Television, Australia

37. Geoff Holland, Barrister & Lecturer in Law, University of Technology, Sydney

38. Gillian Leahy, Associate Professor, University of Technology, Sydney

39. Amos Roberts, Reporter, “Dateline” SBS Television, Australia

40. Lee Rhiannon, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliament of New South Wales

41. Ivan O'Mahoney ­ Producer, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

42. Michael Doyle, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

43. Caro Meldrum‐Hanna, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

44. Judith Rodriguez, Melbourne Pen Centre

45. Ian Gerrard, Editor, The Diplomat, Australia

46. Julie Posetti, Freelance journalist & Journalism Lecturer, University of Canberra

47. Megan West, Lawyer, SBS Television

48. Michelle Baddiley , Archive Producer, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

49. Gail Phillips, Associate Professor of Journalism, Murdoch University

50. Martin Butler, Independent Filmmaker, Melbourne

51. Peter Cronau, Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

52. Maryann Keady, Independent Producer, Sydney

53. Associate Professor David Robie, Director, Pacific Media Centre, AUT University

54. Sue Ahearn, Journalist, ABC Melbourne

55. Maire Sheehan, Friends of Maliana, Sydney

56. Antony Loewenstein, Independent Journalist and Author

57. Sylvia Hale, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliament of New South Wales

58. Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

59. Joseph M Fernandez, Senior Lecturer, Journalism, Curtin University of Technology

60. Annette Blackwell, Lecturer in Journalism, University of Technology, Sydney

61. Jane Waddell, Convenor Mosman ‐Maubaro Friendship Committee, Sydney

62. Kate MacDonald, Producer, ABC Radio National

63. Sharon Davis, Radio Documentary, Radio National

64. Liam Phelan, Night Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

65. Mike Carey, Freelance TV and Radio Producer, Australia

66. Associate Professor Peter Dunbar‐Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

67. Phil Thornton, Independent Journalist, Thailand

68. Gordon & Marie Esden, Birchgrove New South Wales

69. Kay Nankervis, Lecturer in journalism, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia

70. Sally McCausland , Senior Lawyer, SBS Television, Australia

71. Jenna Price, Lecturer in journalism, University of Technology, Sydney

72. Eurydice Aroney, Lecturer and Radio Journalist, University of Technology, Sydney

73. Bonita Mason, Lecturer in journalism, Curtin University of Technology

74. Mignon Shardlow, Lecturer in journalism, Curtin University, Perth

75. Jahnnabi Das, Researcher, University of Technology, Sydney

76. Akhteruz Zaman, Researcher, University of Technology, Sydney

77. Damian Cobley‐Finch, Psychologist, Member of Friends of Maliana

78. Mignon Shardlow, Journalism lecturer, Curtin University, Perth

79. Dr Cassi Plate, Councillor, Leichhardt Municipal Council

80. Steven Scott, The Canberra Times

81. Sylvie Macbean, Fairfax Media

82. Adrian Kendrick, The Age, Melbourne

83. Monica Heary, Journalist, St George and Sutherland Shire Leader

84. Adam Hosfal

85. Rachel Smith, Fairfax Media

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