EAST TIMOR’S NATIONAL NEWSPAPER HOPE … SEPT’ 2007

Hello to friends of East Timor,

Below is some information relating to the media in East Timor I hope is of interest. If you know anyone in the media who might be interested in the story, contact details are supplied.

Regards,

Jock Cheetham
Sydney Morning Herald

EAST TIMOR’S NATIONAL NEWSPAPER HOPE … SEPT’ 2007

Staff at Fairfax Media have raised nearly $30,000 for an East Timorese newspaper and have set a new target of $100,000 for the next year. Since early last year, the staff at Fairfax Media, the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and a host of other newspapers and websites, have been donating through their pay to Tempo Semanal.

Since his return from East Timor this year, Major Michael Stone has been giving lectures and talks explaining that a strong national media voice is crucial for the country’s democracy. “Peace has no chance without truth,” Major Stone says. “Without a voice of truth, evil prevails and people use information as a weapon.”

Major Stone, an Australian Army officer, has travelled all over East Timor as a peacekeeper. Virtually no independent media reaches the villages, leaving people with few alternatives to propaganda, he says.

The exception is Tempo Semanal, a weekly national newspaper run by the East Timorese journalist Jose Belo. The paper has been distributing at the village level since October last year. Fairfax staff have paid for computers, motor bikes, cameras, training, wages and a subscription to 300 copies of the paper for distribution to the districts.

The overseas aid arm of Australia’s union movement, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, has delivered the help. The amount raised so far includes the company’s matched donations of $10,000. Fairfax Media has committed to match up to the same amount this financial year.

Now, Fairfax staff want to expand the project to lift Tempo Semanal’s professional standards and consolidate its presence as an information source in East Timor. “I have seen many times that controlling information can be far more deadly and coercive than a firearm,” Major Stone says. “Tempo Semanal is a national newspaper established by a group of courageous Timorese who want to spread unity and peace in their country.”

Michael Stone is happy to provide personal comment on his experiences in East Timor and background about the Tempo Semanal project. Jock Cheetham, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, is also available for comment.

Tax deductible donations to the Tempo Semanal program can be made on the Make a Donation page at the Union Aid Abroad website, http://www.apheda.org.au. Select the drop-down choice of “Global Justice Program – East Timor: Newspaper” for either a regular or one-off donation. The direct link is https://secure.fantasticone.com/apheda/order_form.php.

A statement from Jose Belo, an interview with Major Stone, biographies, as well as histories of the paper and the supporting project are available for emailing on request.

Jock Cheetham
Ph: 0403 931 888

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