East Timor | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

East Timor

East Timor

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

30

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

14

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

9

East Timor gained independence in May 2002 after three years of UN interim administration, which set the foundation for open civil governance. Thus, private and public media generally operate freely. Section 40 of the new constitution guarantees freedom of speech, while Section 41 guarantees press freedom and "independence of the public mass media from political and economic powers." However, the constitution also allows the government to intervene and suspend these rights when national security or "human dignity" is threatened.

Given the country's transition to a functional democracy, the government has warned journalists to exercise their freedom with responsibility, and official reactions to overly adverse reporting remain a concern. In June, the Ministry of the Interior expelled Australian freelance journalist Julian King for allegedly subverting the state in his reporting. There is as yet no press council to adjudicate disputes. Therefore, the government uses legal codes adopted from Indonesian and Portuguese laws to address any aberrant, albeit undefined, media-related practices. However, no major incursions on press freedom were noted in 2004, although the government did on several occasions attempt to influence coverage.

 Popular newspapers are the dailies Timor Post and Lalenok, as well as a number of weeklies published in different languages. Timor Post also hosts an online news site, East Timor Press. A weekly Tetum news summary, Neon Metin, is distributed to rural areas by a youth organization, Resistencia Nacional dos Estudantes de Timor Leste (RENETIL). The Public Broadcast Service owns and operates a radio station that reaches most of the population, as well as a television station that has a limited geographic range. Lack of journalism training and education, high illiteracy, widespread poverty, and a poor communications infrastructure continue to hamper the development of professional media practices and standards.