18 July 2009

Executive Eviction of Suara Timor Lorosae by Fretilin Government

Suara Timor Lorosae's background on eviction from the building

Dear friends,

Here I attach the background of the eviction of the house of newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae, the leading and biggest newspaper in the country.

Thank you.

Salvador J. Ximenes Soares Publisher and Editor in Chief Suara Timor Lorosae Mobile : + 670-724777 ; 62-816822775

Background of the eviction of the newspaper Suara Timor Timur from the building

Dear friends,

The newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae received an eviction notice from the Land and Property Office on April 18, 2005. This stated that the government has decided to not extend any more time to the newspaper to use the building, and ordered an immediate eviction. This letter was a response to our letter to the Minister of Justice requesting a 6 month extension to enable the newspaper to find a new location and to construct a printing house in new site. The reason specified for the eviction notice was that Government is intending to use the building soon. However we believe the government's decision reflects their desire to make the newspaper unviable, such that it is forced to close down.

Taking this into consideration we have made the decision to nevertheless keep the newspaper running.

I. Immediate action taken

1. In view of the eviction, our top priority was to rent a house as a newsroom. Newsroom activities moved to this rented house on April 19, the day after receipt of the eviction notice.

2. The house has no land line. Internet access will be at internet cafes. This is also affected STL on line version that stop for while.

3. STL has started building a provisional building; the smaller Kumori printing machine, that will print the newspaper with small format, has already been dismantled and moved to the new location for reinstallation in the very near future. In the interim we are contracting the printing of the newspaper to a printing company.

4. We are proud that to inform you that Suara Timor Lorosae was able to continue publishing, without even a single day's break.

5. The web printing machine is being dismantled and put into a container, waiting for construction of a building to house it. This will take 4 months.

6. All equipment has been moved to the two new locations - a rented house and the new building that is under construction as a printing house in STL's own land in Surikmas - Fatumeta, Dili. STL bought this land (3,000m2) in 2003, after it first started receiving threats of eviction in 2003.

7. We have submitted applications to connect a land line phone and electricity to the new site.

8. Circulation will function at new site under emergency roof.

9. Finance, Advertising and other departments will operate along with the news department in the rented house.

II. Short term plans

1. Build a small provisional building for the Kumori printing machine at the newspaper's own land in Surikmas, and install the machine there. This will take 10 days. Hopefully after that the newspaper will print using its own printing machine, though still in tabloid format.

2. Speed up the construction of a permanent printing house at this Surikmas site. This building, with a size of 24 x 12 meters, is supported by the Finish Government.

3. Look for additional funds to enable the addition of a second storey to this building. For this, an additional $15,805 is required (see the breakdown of budget). The second storey would allow only the news room.

4. Place for Management including circulation, advertising and administration departments building will construct a provisional house.

5. We hope that by the first week of August 2005 the building will be ready for use and all department of newspaper will accommodate in the new compound of newspaper.

III. Medium Term Plans

Look for funds for the construction of a management building. This requires around $35,000. Our plan is for a building of 24 x 6 metres, situated beside the printing house and newsroom. For a breakdown of the budget see the attachment.

Dear Friends and colleagues

Regarding the decision of the Government, a lot of friends are questioning why Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and his government are apparently very angry with the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper.

Firstly let me explain a few measures taken by Mari Alkatiri and his government, as follows:

1. Suara Timor Lorosae was given 60 days to vacate the current building used by STL to publish the newspaper. This order has no basis as the building has been used by STL since the Indonesian period, beginning in 1993. In 1999, Indonesian military backed militia totally destroyed the building, along with all equipment, including a Heidelberg printing machine which had been given by The Asia Foundation and USAID. In 2000 STL rehabilitated the building, and on 30 July 2000 STL was able to print the first edition again.

2. All government departments and other government officials are banned from receiving or giving interviews to STL journalists. This edict was displayed on the walls of government offices. STL journalists are also banned from carrying out journalistic work in the national hospital, which is the only public hospital in Dili.

3. All government institutions (offices), whether national or in the districts, are forbidden from subscribing to STL.

4. All government institutions (offices) are banned from advertising in STL.

5. Direct pressure from Mari, and expulsion of journalists in public, are things experienced by STL at this stage.

6. Besides these pressures, there are efforts from the government to destroy STL from inside by approaching certain STL journalists to persuade them to leave the newspaper and join another group of businessmen and government officers to establish a new newspaper Diario, which is linked to the weekly Portuguese-language paper Seminario. These approaches to STL journalists were carried out directly by Mari Alkatiri over the telephone. In addition, some ministers and businessmen approached the journalists by setting up meetings face-to-face to persuade the journalists to join. These efforts until now are still not successful and hopefully will not succeed in the future.

The background of the Mari Alkatiri government's anger towards STL can be explained as follows:

1. Perhaps Mari's aversion can be dated back to before East Timor's independence, but this is uncertain. In the Indonesian period, Pemuda Pancasila (a youth group close to Soeharto), has an East Timor branch led by Mari's young brother Ahmad Akatiri. He, with the support of military, entered the STL office, destroying computers, television, and other equipment in the editorial office in December 1994. This event was widely published, and Ahmad had to repay all equipment destroyed and to advertise his apologies in the newspaper Kompas.

2. After independence, the Prime Minister and his ruling party found that the only media in East Timor which they could not control for their purposes is STL. Protests and threats have been conveyed to STL by Mari many times before he became PM. These included threatening to close STL, and accusing STL of being a spokesperson for the opposition.

3. In September 2003, after STL published news about people questioning Mari Alkatiri's citizenship, and about the eviction of Mario Carrascalao from his house, etc., Mari again threatened STL by ordering the Land and Property Unit to evict STL from the current building within 30 days. We sent a letter in response to this very repugnant policy, but there has never been any answer from the government, until the second eviction letter arrived in February 2005.

4. This political pressure intensified after the local authority elections last year in 2004, in which Fretilin lost in some districts. Due to STL's publication of this fact, the PM called the Deputy Chief Editor to express his anger and threaten to close down the newspaper. On 25 October 2004 he call to the newspaper complaining that his statement specifically address to opposition parliament member not all members. He request to make correction and threat the newspaper. His office letter of correction.

5. In 6 December 2004, STL publish statement of Inpector General saying that many corruption cases was interfere by PM Alkatiri and it is difficult to combat against corruption and collusion. PM Alkatiri was angry and call to Deputy Chief Editor to complaining on that.

6. In 6 January 2005, STL published news about Mari Alkatiri's criticism towards the opposition, and in the same edition STL also published the opposition's response to Mari and put their photo in the front page. Mari was very angry and he called the Deputy Chief Editor Domingos Saldanha to appear before him. On that occasion, he threw the newspaper to Domingos and threatened STL by saying STL had been excessive in its news and that one day he would close the STL as he has authority to do so. Two times he calls to Domingos and made tree time correction by his office.

7. In 7 February 2005, STL reported about 53 peoples died in the sub-district of Hatubuiliko. Pm was angry call to Deputy that he is not happy with the report and threaten again to close the newspaper.

8. In 10 February 2005, when STL reported about the hunger in almost all districts in East Timor, Mari was very irritated with the reports and he called Domingos saying he would take necessary measures against STL. He also accusing STL is made autonomy campaign.

9. Three days later STL received a letter from the Land and Property Unit, which gave an ultimatum to STL to vacate the building within 60 days.

12. There are systematic efforts to close STL but it seems that they have not found the way to do so.

10. The other reason why Mari and his government are using systematic methods to close STL is that STL in their view is the only media which does not serve their interests. Furthermore the national election is approaching (in 2007); they (the ruling party) feel that STL will be a threat to their interests.

11. We had sent a letter to Land and Property Unit on February 2005, to request a much longer time (6 months) in the current building, so that we could find funds for construction of new buildings. The response was only received on 19 April 2005, which was the deadline given for departure from the building. In this letter, the government stated that they would not extend any more time to STL.

It seems the government expected STL to close, but it miscalculated, because even in this emergency situation we are still printing the newspaper.

Under Indonesian administration military destroyed the office, bur rent down car, beaten journalist and pressure to withdraw Publisher and Editor in Chief from Indonesian parliament (DPR) but never order newspaper to live the house.

That is the price of free and independent newspaper.

According to words of Bishop Dili Mgr. Alberto Ricardo Mari's Government it seems introduce dictatorship to this newly country. Try to shutdown newspaper, no license for demonstrations, sensitive to critics and band not publish about hunger.

We would really appreciate if friends could help us in this difficult time. We particularly need the support of media partners now that democracy and freedom of the press are under threat in this new nation of East Timor.

Thank you very much,

Dili, April 20, 2005

Salvador J. Ximenes Soares Publisher and Editor in Chief

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