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Journalist and cameraperson threatened by MP for covering inactivity of Parliament

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Amid rising political tensions in the run-off presidential election in East Timor, a member of the National Parliament has threatened a journalist and a cameraperson who were covering legislative activity in the building.

On 17 April 2007, cameraperson Argentina Cardoso and Ricardina Amaral of National Television of Timor Leste (TVTL) were assigned to cover the National Parliament following public criticism that no plenary sessions were being held as most parliamentary members were involved in the presidential campaigns.

However, after they shot footage of the empty desks in the plenary room, Januario Soares, a parliamentarian from the ruling party FRETILIN, threatened to break their camera, warning them of physical consequences if the images taken were broadcast.

President of the National Parliament Francisco Guterres, who is also one of the presidential candidates, told national media that Soares' action was a serious interference to journalistic work, promising to handle it directly with Soares.

Virgilio Guterres, president of the Timor Lorosa'e Journalists Association (TLJA), a SEAPA partner based in the capital Dili, has condemned the attack, calling it a direct threat to press freedom.

"Politicians in this country should try to understand that journalists have the right to access all public places such as Parliament, to gather information in order to fulfil the people's right to know," the TLJA president said, adding that as a Member of Parliament, Soares is obliged to assist journalists with information of public interest.

The run-off presidential election pitting Francisco Guterres against Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, will be held on 9 May, following a 15-day campaign period to start on 22 April.

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