[TimorLesteStudies] Press Release: Australian Press Council re licensing of East Timorese journalists

Bu Wilson Bu.Wilson at anu.edu.au
Wed Apr 8 12:19:23 EST 2009

Australian Press Council

Press Release

April 8, 2009 (For immediate release)

The Australian Press Council has expressed concerns about proposals to
license journalists in East Timor.

The Council Chairman Professor Ken McKinnon said the proposed scheme could
greatly affect the operation of a free press in the world's newest

The proposal is to establish a media council as part of a parcel of laws
regulating the media in East Timor. Journalists who wished to work in the
media industry, including foreign correspondents, would have to be licensed
by the media council.

The council would have members appointed by the East Timor parliament and a
further member selected by the parliamentary appointees.

Such a body could clearly been seen to politically aligned. It would also
oversee complaints and have powers to revoke journalists'
licenses or impose fines on journalists for professional transgressions.

"These aspects were clearly outside internationally recognised standards for
the media in a democracy and represented restrictions on free speech", Prof
McKinnon said.

Professor McKinnon said that the Australian Press Council had been
represented at a workshop in Dili in July last year. The workshop was told
how the Australian Press Council operated as a non-legal body for dispute
resolution and a watchdog on threats to freedom of speech, and of the press.

"Journalists attending the workshop welcomed the suggestion that the country
adopt the Australian Press Council structure as a model,"
Prof. McKinnon said.

The licensing issue raised by the UN-appointed Portuguese lawyer tasked with
suggesting media laws was widely criticised at the workshop. Despite this
criticism, journalist licensing remained a part of the draft laws.

Prof McKinnon said other proposed new laws, which allowed for widespread
freedom of information disclosure, were welcome as was the decision not to
include defamation in the country's penal code.

The laws will be further reviewed by Fernanda Borges, a member of parliament
who chairs the committee that will make final recommendation to parliament.

Ms Borges has said that the registration of journalists remained

* * *

Further information: Professor Ken McKinnon - 0412 062 327

The Australian Press Council comprises representatives of the public and of
the industry and acts to preserve the freedom, and the responsibility, of
the Australian press. It was founded in July 1976 and has been in continuous
operation for over 30 years.

The Australian Press Council
Suite 10.02, 117 York Street
Sydney 2000

p: 02 9261 1930
f: 02 9267 6826
e: info at presscouncil.org.au
w: www.presscouncil.org.au

ABN: 13 383 369 929

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