The lusa and the ocker

As a Timor watcher, whose mother tongue is English, I have to make some comments on the international coverage of the worsening crisis in East Timor. I am currently in Portugal listening to radio, TV and reading their newspapers and wires online.

Over the past year, I have noticed that the Portuguese media’s sympathy for FRETILIN borders on bias. But everybody knows that an “award-winning” Australian television report — full of unproven and irresponsible allegations — deepened the political crisis in Timor in mid 2006.

I am surprised first of all, in the lack of coordination and fact-checking by both Portuguese and Australian media.

In the past couple of days, I have noticed glaring differences between the “Lusa” and “Ocker” versions once again. First, I notice the Australian media’s insistence on conflict and “blaze of glory”-type rhetoric from Alfredo. Portuguese sources reported constructive negotiation, meetings Friday and Saturday between Prosecutor Longuinhos Monteiro and Alfredo. These meetings went unreported in English-speaking media, with Australian journalists kept reporting yesterday’s sensationalist proclamations by Alfredo. This could have something to do with the different sources of each. The Portuguese were speaking to the (dubious) ex-MP Leandro Isaac, and the Australians either directly with Alfredo or with Australian army officials.

What we are asking for, as people who care about Timor, is a non-sensationalist, and fact-checked flow of information, whether it be from Lisbon, Canberra, Dili, or Same. And wouldn’t it be amazing if the Portuguese and Australians could in fact trade information and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses?

In the meantime, I’m waiting for UNMIT to put on the flak jackets and release some information, or for Suara Timor Lorosa’e to update the world from a secure laptop somewhere in Dili.

[P.S. Where is Jill Jolliffe? Is she busy with the Balibo Five inquest? She is desperately needed in Timor!]

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