Horta: Max Stahl is forever part of our fighting story

Horta: Max Stahl is forever part of our fighting story

Former president, José Ramos-Horta (Image/Tatoli)

DILI, 28 october 2021 (TATOLI) – The Former President of the Republic of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, considered Max Stahl as a person with a “great personality” for all Timorese and the world.

“Max Stahl has left us. His death is a loss for all Timorese and the world. A great soul, a great heart, a great personality that is part of the history of our fight”, Horta told TATOLI at his residence, in Dili, on thursday.

Horta highlighted that the cause of the death of Max Stahl was cancer.

“I wanted to travel to Australia, but it was not possible due to restrictions imposed by the Australian Government because of Covid-19”, he said.

Max Stahl died this morning around 4.30 am (28/10) at a hospital in Brisbane, Australia.

In 1991 Max Stahl arrived in East Timor (Timor-Leste) where he lived and documented one of the most dramatic moments of the country: the massacre in the Santa Cruz cemetery, in Dili. The images of the massacre were spread around the world and changed forever the history of the nation.

To honor his contribution, Timor-Leste awarded the British and Timorese journalist Max Stahl with the Order of Liberty Necklace, awarded only to individuals of Timorese nationality.

In November 2019, the Head of State, Francisco Guterres Lú Olo, awarded Max Stahl with the Grand Necklace of the Order of Timor-Leste. This award aimed to recognize his contribution to the country’s battle for self-determination.

Max Stahl was a journalist and documentary filmmaker. He was born in England on December 6, 1954.

He was descended from a diplomat family. The maternal grandfather was a Swedish diplomat, who had the privilege of being the Director of the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for over twenty years. He was the son of Christopher Max Stahl Wenner, a Swiss diplomat, and a French mother. He grew up with three brothers. Coming from a diplomat family, Stahl and his brothers always had heard about the international problems, as they moved frequently – Bolivia, El Salvador, Austria, and England.

Max studied Literature at Oxford University, UK. He spoke English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Tetum. He also knew Russian and some Arabic.

Max began his career as a theatrical producer and British children’s television program ‘Blue Peter’.

He suffered numerous bitter experiences during his tenure – he was arrested, witnessed the death of colleagues, experienced misery among guerrillas in the bush, and witnessed genocides, such as the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991.

A year later (2000), Max Stahl received the Rory Peck Award, given to freelance camera operators who risk their lives to cover and report on newsworthy events. This was only one of the many awards that he has received for his work on war zones.

In response to an invitation from Timorese resistance guerillas, Max Stahl arrived for the first time in Timor-Leste, on August 30, 1991, as a tourist. During his stay, he interviewed several Clandestine Front leaders and guerrillas, including Commander David Alex “Daitula”, Nino Konis Santana, and many others.

Max Stahl’s documentary “In Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor” publicized the Santa Cruz Massacre. Max directly witnessed the brutality of the Indonesian military who took the lives of young Timorese. The images spread all over the world, opening the eyes of several countries to the struggle for the independence of Timor-Leste. The footage from Santa Cruz was taken abroad thanks to a Dutch activist, Saskia Kouwenberg.

The 1999 referendum led Max Stahl to return to Timor-Leste again, where he noted the sacrifices and resilience of the Timorese to overcome numerous challenges and create the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, which became official on 20 May 2002.

In preserving the history of the struggle of the Timorese, Max Stahl created and independently managing, the Max Stahl Audiovisual Center in Timor-Leste (CAMSTL), where he compiled records of various historical events collected over the last 25 years. All of these files have been considered the “Memory of the World Register” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

For educational and research purposes, CAMSTL has cooperated with the University of Coimbra, in Portugal, to archive the historical documents of Timor in digital format.


Journalist: Afonso Rosario

Editor: Maria Auxiliadora 

Translation: Filomeno Martins

Editor: Nelia Borges Rosario


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