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IFJ launches petition protesting against East Timor’s ‘press law’

East Timorese journalists ... an endangered species in the face of the controversial media law. Image: Cafe Pacific

East Timorese journalists … an endangered species in the face of the controversial media law. Image: Cafe Pacific

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By the Pacific Media Watch news desk

The Sydney-based Asia-Pacific office of the International Federation of Journalists has launched a global petition protesting against a controversial ‘press law’ passed earlier this year by Parliament, partially rejected by the Appeal Court as “unconstitutional” and awaiting presidential approval.

The IFJ’s online petition describes the law as “incompatible with the basic principles of freedom of expression, the practical workings of a free media and the needs of a modern democracy”.

The petition added: “Journalism should not be criminalised. Journalists should not be licensed at the whim of government appointed committees.”

Thirty three international journalists, including SBS Dateline’s Mark Davis, Crikey editor Marni Cordell, broadcaster George Negus, investigative journalist John Pilger, ABC Four Corners produce Peter Cronau and Pacific Media Centre director Dr David Robie,are among those who have signed the petition launch document.

The petition statement said:

We, the undersigned journalists and media of Australia, respectfully urge the President, Government and Parliament of Timor Leste, to reject the current proposed Media Law. The laws are incompatible with the basic principles of freedom of expression, the practical workings of a free media and the needs of a modern democracy.

Whatever the best intentions of the proposed legislation are, the potential for political abuse by future administrations is enormous.

The proposed legislation will leave journalists open to an endless array of fines and criminal prosecutions. It will force journalists to work to a vague list of national and economic objectives. It will place the right of both citizens and journalists to write, publish and express themselves into the hands of a potentially politicised committee.

Journalism should not be criminalised. Journalists should not be licensed at the whim of government appointed committees.

We urge you to reconsider this legislation.

Signed:

Mark Davis, Dateline, SBS TV

David Marr, Journalist, The Guardian Australia

Ruth Pollard, Middle East Correspondent, The Sydney Morning Herald

Tony Jones, Presenter Q&A, ABC TV

Ben Doherty, The Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax

Sophie McNeill, Foreign Correspondent, ABC TV

Steve Pennells, Journalist, The West Australian

Chris Bath, TV Anchor, Seven Network News

Rove McManus, Presenter, The Project

Zoe Daniel, Presenter, Foreign Correspondent, ABC News

Marni Cordell, Editor, Crikey News

George Negus, Veteran International Journalist

Ginny Stein, African Correspondent, ABC News

David O’Shea, Dateline, SBS TV

Sue Spencer, Executive Producer Four Corners, ABC TV

David Dare Parker, Photojournalist

Jock Cheetham, Journalist, The Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax

Sarah Ferguson, Journalist, ABC TV

John Pilger, Journalist, Author & Documentary Filmaker

Dr David Robie, Director, Pacific Media Centre

Mark Colvin, Presenter, ABC Radio

Peter Manning, Former Head of ABC TV News and Current Affairs; Former Head of Current Affairs, Seven Network.

Yalda Hakim, Presenter/Correspondent, BBC World News

Olivia Rousset, Independent Journalist

Yaara Bou Melhem, Dateline SBS TV, Al Jazeera International

Matt Brown, Middle East Correspondent, ABC

Helen Davidson, Journalist, The Guardian Australia

Michael Bachelard, Indonesia Correspondent, The Sydney Morning Herald

Chris Graham, Editor, New Matilda

John Garnaut, Asia Pacific Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

Lee Glendinning, Journalist, The Guardian Australia

Phil Thornton, Freelance Journalist in Southeast Asia

Peter Cronau, Senior Producer/Journalist, Four Corners, ABC TV

Sign the East Timor media law petition

More background

East Timor court ruling sparks confusion

Timor-Leste’s Parliament handed ‘humiliating’ defeat