DILI, 01 september 2022 (TATOLI) – The Timor-Leste Press Council (CI) organized the 2023 Dili Dialogue Forum (DDF), which brought together media experts to share experiences and ideas on promoting and strengthening press freedom and defending human rights in the Southeast Asian region.
In his opening remarks, the Secretary of State for Social Communication, Expedito Dias Ximenes, said that it’s important for the IX Government to support the Press Council in order to continue promoting press freedom and freedom of expression in the country and Southeast Asia region.
“Freedom of the press and other mass media is guaranteed in Article 41 of the Constitution of Timor-Leste and the Media Law. Therefore, I believe that freedom of the press is not only important for a democratic society but also to promote the protection of other fundamental human rights,” Dias said at the DDF, in Dili, today.
He said if journalists are subjected to harassment, censorship, and violence is a threat to the progress of democracy since democracy itself requires the independence of the media and pluralism.
On behalf of the IX Government, Dias pledged to collaborate with civil society to strengthen Timor-Leste’s media in order to achieve the goal of protecting and defending human rights: “We will support journalists who are victims of harassment and defend the voice of the voiceless, in order to achieve Government’s goal of guaranteeing absolute press freedom and pluralism in the country.”
At the same place, the Chairman of Timor Press Council, Otelio Ote, said that freedom of expression and freedom of the press is the cornerstone of the country’s democracy, but stated the recent cases of the two Timorese journalists summoned by the Timorese National Police threatened freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country.
One said that the act could hurt Timor-Leste’s ranking in the world’s top press freedom: “Timor-Leste is a new democratic country in Southeast Asia where it is internationally recognized through the 2023 World Press Freedom Index. Timor-Leste Press Freedom is highly recognized with Reporters Without Borders placing the Country Press Freedom at the top 10 in the global ranking and taking the lead among the ASEAN countries,” Ote stressed.
He said that the Timor-Leste Press Council is committed to promoting and protecting the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression as outlined in the country’s constitution from both political and economic influences: “CI is committed to supervising and monitoring journalistic products and the media outlets in the context of news stories and the new publication, in order to respect the Journalists’ Code of Ethics and media law.”
IFJ representative Jim Nolan urged CI to maintain the important work it has been doing to contribute to press freedom in the Southeast Asian region.
Nolan emphasized the importance of institutions like the Press Councils, which support freedom of the press and the operation of free journalism: “The other very important element that I should mention is the importance of the independent public broadcasting institution. Public broadcasting must be free from government interference and political appointments. Independent mechanisms for editorial independence must be implemented in public broadcasting institutions. They should be resourcing for public media which should be guaranteed by governments. The Journalists’ code of ethics should underpin the operation of public media.”
He added that the media in the Pacific and Southeast Asia must join forces to protect freedom of the press, which is shared collectively.
In addition, UNESCO Communication Specialist Office of Jakarta, Ana Lomtadze said that as an international organization, UNESCO works with duty-bearers such as the judiciary and police to enhance their capacities to uphold international standards of freedom of expression, access to information, and safety of journalists.
She said Press Councils play an important role in coordinating with the judiciary and the police to open investigations for crimes against journalists: “Press Council can also meet with public officials and the police to encourage them to take media disputes to the Press Council rather than pressing charges under the criminal code.”
Journalist: Filomeno Martins
Editor: Nelia Borges