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Timor Post – from nothing to success in 15 years

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Rosa Garcia, a senior journalist and editor of the Timor Post. Image: Wong Pei Ting

Pacific Scoop:
Commentary – By Bob Howarth in Dili

Timor-Leste’s media scene has blossomed and grown successfully in 15 years.

I have watched it grow and was lucky enough to be there on February 29, 2000, when the Timor Post printed its first edition… without a printing press.

My involvement started with a phone call from the University of Queensland in Brisbane when a group of Timorese journalists were completing a course in “post-conflict” reporting run by the former Reuters newsagency chief in war-ravaged Kosovo.

I met several now legendary reporters like Hugo Da Costa, Rosa Garcia, Jose Ximenes and Ote Otelio to name just a few.

Their big problem was all their computers and printing equipment had been totally destroyed in the militia rampages in Dili in late 1999.

Within 24 hours we came up with an instant newspaper solution. Queensland Newspapers in Brisbane had recently upgraded its large editorial computer system for the Y2K (Year 2000 bug).

My boss at the time gave permission to send to Dili several PCs, laptops and laser printers. So the TL reporters flew off to Darwin with nearly 1000kgs of equipment. But no printing press.

Computers stored
The next problem was that they flew from Darwin to Dili on a UNC130 but could only take what they could carry. So most of the computers were stored in Darwin at the Northern Territory News newspaper.

I flew to Darwin a few days later to train Darwin reporters on a new library system and got approval to get the equipment to Dili (thanks to Perkins Barges, which did it for free), then fly in myself on February 25, 2000.

Dili was still burning when I arrived and found a bed at the Paximus Lodge.

When the equipment arrived on February 27 the Timor Post staff under Hugo Da Costa wanted to put out their first edition 48 hours later when Gus Dur, the Indonesian President visited Dili.

It was almost Mission Impossible but we did it thanks to the Australian Army which supplied power from their generators and Bob Buskins, general manager of the Paximus Lodge, who let us use his brand new A3 photocopier to produce 500 copies of the first Timor Post.

The bleary-eyed staff worked until 5am on Sunday, February 29, 2000, to print their historic first edition.

We drove in a taxi through Dili that morning, handing out free copies and excited people everywhere rushed to grab the pro-Timor newspaper since they had voted for independence.

Since then the Timor Post has continued to grow and prosper and become one of the country’s most trusted news sources.

Parabens! Viva Timor-Leste! Viva Timor Post!

Bob Howarth is a communications consultant now to the Bank of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby and a media communications fellow of the Institute for Peace and Democracy at Udayana University in Bali.

Rosa Garcia in the documentary Breaking The News

Source: Pacific Media Watch 9141