Newspaper office attacked

August 4, 2007
Posted September 28, 2007

Suara Timor Lorosa’e

On August 4, amid rising political tensions surrounding the formation of a new government, unidentified men attacked the office of the country’s leading daily, Suara Timor Lorosa’e (STL), according to the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA).

“It is really an attack against freedom of the press,” the newspaper’s managing director, Francisco Belo Simoes Da Costa, told SEAPA. “People who don’t agree with the publication of STL should utilize legal mechanisms of complaint,” Belo said.  

While the precise motive behind the attack was unclear, the Timor Lorosa’e Journalists Association indicated that the newspaper may have been targeted by political partisans. “Political leaders should encourage their sympathizers not to use violence in expressing their anger,” association President Virgilio Da Silva Guterres said in a statement.

Suara Timor Lorosa’e is perceived to favor the party of independence hero Xanana Gusmao. Political tensions were running high in the country after parliamentary elections in June ended with no party winning an absolute majority. The attack on the Suara Timor Lorosa’e office followed another on its employee, Abel Mateus Do Rosario, who was stoned and beaten by two youths on July 31 when he admitted working for the newspaper.

A report on the June elections issued by the Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET), a nonpartisan organization of local and international nongovernmental organizations, expressed concern about the climate for press freedom. “Some Timorese journalists at times felt pressured to cover (or not to cover) certain political issues or to advance a particular political perspective,” according to SOMET. “Some local journalists said that they feel insecure in writing on politically sensitive topics and they were occasionally intimidated with verbal or even physical threats.”