Is there Rule of Law in Timor-Leste?
The Minister of Justice launches attack on Tempo Semanal.
Potentially a precedent setting use of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste’s anti-defamation law by a senior member of the Government against the free press in Timor-Leste.
Dili, Timor-Leste, 18 December 2008 – In a widely anticipated move, on 12 December 2008, the Office of Prosecutor-General served notice to the Tempo Semanal weekly newspaper that it is to appear on 19 January 2009 to answer defamation charges brought against Tempo Semanal by Lucia Lobato, the Minister of Justice. When asked by Tempo Semanal to be given a copy of the charges the Office of the Prosecutor-General stated that this would be impossible seeing as the relevant documents were confidential. Thereby depriving Tempo Semanal of due process, and this is only the beginning.
On 12 October 2008 Tempo Semanal published a story alleging acts of corruption regarding Government contracts by the Minister of Justice. The story can be viewed in Tetun at this link; and in English at this link. These were based upon a series confidential interviews and a large number of text messages sent and received by the Minister of Justice on her publically financed Government mobile phone.
The content of these messages was made available to Tempo Semanal by a confidential source. Tempo Semanal intends to protect its sources.
These messages were sent and received by a Government phone used by the Minister of Justice, paid for by the State of Timor-Leste, and are therefore the property of the people of Timor-Leste. These messages indicated that there were strong suspicions that the Minister of Justice was providing inside information and indeed possibly favourable conditions to business people in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. The contracts involved Ministry of Justice projects relating 1) to renovation of the Becora Prison perimeter wall, 2) uniforms for the prison service [insert video] and 3) the design, issuance and management of national identity documentation. The relevant stories can be found at the following links via Tempo Semanal online site.