Report – By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch
A veteran journalist and research fellow at Australia’s Bond University doubts the media was the target in the recent attack on a radio journalist in Timor-Leste.
Leoneto da Cruz Goncalves, a reporter with Radio Rakambia, was stabbed last Friday by two unidentified people who were riding motorbikes at Farol in front of Timor-Leste’s Anti-Corruption Commission office in the capital Dili.
Bob Howarth, who has spent time training journalists in Timor-Leste at the Independente newspaper, said he had spoken to the head of the Dili Press Club who went to see da Cruz Goncalves, who was recovering in hospital.
“It was at quarter to six in the morning, pitch dark and just happened to be outside the Anti-Corruption office,” Howarth said.
“Radio reporters in Timor-Leste are not known as investigative reporters and people get stabbed there all the time.”
Howarth said he would have heard an outcry from the rest of the media industry if people suspected this was a direct attack on the media.
Howarth said he had more faith in the media bodies in Timor-Leste than he did in Papua New Guinea, where he used to work.
He said he was in constant contact with a network of people through his role as a correspondent for Reporters Sans Frontières.
Despite his contacts, he said he could not raise anybody about the allegations of corruption in the PNG Media Council.
“Nobody can tell me what is going on with the media council there,” he said.
Howarth is a former director of the media council and said in the past it had been very strong, but at the moment it was impossible to get someone to comment.
“Even with the two journalism schools, at Divine Word and UPNG (University of Papua New Guinea) – we haven’t heard a peep from them. It’s a deafening silence,” he said.
Howarth said there were threats on the media constantly during the recent election period in PNG and there were no comments from the media council or any media academics in the country.
“My biggest concern is that there are continual claims of senior journalists being in the pay of politicians,” he said.
“And then there is the claim that this is understandable given the poor levels of pay, when the two owners of the main newspapers are Rimbunan Hijau, a huge Malaysian logging company, and News Corporation.”
Howarth also said there was consensus among many journalists in Papua New Guinea that the country was silent about what is happening to their neighbours in West Papua.
“We turn a blind eye to what’s happening in West Papua, that’s what they say,” said Howarth.
“There are thousands and thousands of West Papuans living in Papua New Guinea without refugee status. They say they are the same [ethnic Melanesian] people, yet you don’t hear a thing.”
Reporters Sans Frontières released a statement saying police have begun an investigation into the attack on da Cruz Goncalves.
Source: 8060 Pacific Media Watch