Subject: Nation: East Timor in urgent need of a newspaper

The Nation (Thailand) December 14, 1999, Tuesday East Timor in urgent need of a newspaper

The Nation

MOST of the East Timorese people are kept in the dark because they have no means to access the day-to-day information on the development in their country, according to a United Nations report released on Monday.

In a grim assessment of the media condition of East Timor, the report said that there is a dire need for the newly independent country to have a daily newspaper. "The people are thirsty for news," the report quoted Bishop Carlos Belo as saying.

Before the referendum, Suara Timor Timur was the only publication in East Timor with a circulation of 8,000. Its office and printing facilities were burned down. Other media facilities including TV stations were also torched.

Most of the 600,000 East Timorese people receive information through two main radio stations, which are operated by the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (Untaet) and by the Catholic church.

The report said that the violent rampage during the first week of September, after the territory's Aug 30 referendum, have destroyed civic institutions and laid waste to all media facilities and telecommunication infrastructure in East Timor.

There are few radios in East Timor and no one knows for certain how many radio sets there are in the country. Most of them were either destroyed or stolen. Those who do possess radios do not have batteries to power them and there are no shops in the colony selling batteries.

Untaet Radio runs a 24-hour broadcast with three hours devoted to news and public announcements. Music is aired mostly during the remaining hours. The church radio station, <I>Kmanek<P>, broadcast 15 hours a day, airing religious and community news.

Last month, the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) dispatched a three-member mission to assess the media infrastructure in East Timor.

The report is named Rebuilding East Timor Media and prepared by Widayananda Jayaweera from Unesco, Yvan Chemla of France and Kavi Chongkittavorn of Thailand.

According to the report media development should be given the highest priority. It also recommended that funds and resources be provided immediately to assist East Timorese journalists in coming out with a regular newspaper.

The report also called on independent news organisation to assist East Timorese in acquiring journalistic skills.

Representatives from news organisations in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand as well as donor countries discussed the report on Monday at a two-day meeting to prepare an action plan to help re-establish the media in East Timor. The meeting ends tomorrow.

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