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Dutch and Indonesian journalists killed days after American journalist expelled

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    NMU         EAST TIMOR         Press at Home & Abroad         Oct 4, 1999    

Dutch and Indonesian journalists killed days after American journalist expelled

  • Two journalists face death in East Timor attacks, while American journalists are kept from witnessing the current violence by being expelled or banned from entering Indonesia

A Dutch journalist was shot to death, an Indonesian journalist was killed, and several other journalists reported being attacked in separate incidents during the violent mid-September rampage in East Timor in Indonesia, according to The Washington Post and the U.S. State Department.

The deadly attack occurred less than a week after American freelance journalist Allan Nairn, an outspoken critic of Indonesia’s rule in East Timor, was arrested and then expelled from the country.

Nairn witnessed the 1991 massacre of hundreds of civilians by Indonesian soldiers and is a leader in the pro-independence East Timor Action Network. If tried and convicted of entering Indonesia illegally, he faced up to 10 years in prison.

“I think they let him go because of all the calls to the Indonesian government, and the intervention of the U.S. State Department,” said Radio Pacifica reporter Amy Goodman, who also was banned from entering Indonesia for her anti-government stories.

Nairn, who has been critical of the U.S. policy in Indonesia and recently wrote about the U.S. involvement, testified Sept. 30 before the House of Representative subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights about the increasing violence against the people of East Timor.

The anti-independence militia, which launched a campaign of terror after the territory voted overwhelmingly on Aug. 30 for independence from Indonesia, are targeting unprotected photographers and reporters. Australian and British peacekeepers issued a warning to journalists not to venture beyond the areas under the control of multinational forces.

Sander Thoenes, a 30-year-old freelance journalist, was killed in a Sept. 21 attack. Thoenes worked for the British Financial Times newspaper and the Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland. He also wrote occasionally for the Christian Science Monitor. His body was found behind a home in Becora, a suburb of Dili, the capital city of East Timor.

Thoenes’ driver escaped unharmed. He later told investigators that several men dressed in Indonesian police uniforms opened fire on his motorcycle as he drove through the Dili suburb of Becora with Thoenes, according to press reports.

An American photographer and British journalist who were ambushed by militiamen near Dili had to be rescued by peacekeeping forces after spending a night hiding in bushes, British forces commander Brigadier David Richards told the BBC. The driver of their car and a translator, both East Timor residents, are still missing. An Indonesian journalist also was killed in a similar attack.


© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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