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Newspaper office attacked, media worker beaten

(SEAPA/IFEX) - On 4 August 2007, amid political tensions arising from the controversial formation of the new government, an unknown group of men attacked the office of a major newspaper, "Suara Timor Lorosa'e" (STL).

STL managing director Francisco Belo Simoes Da Costa said most of the windows in the office have been destroyed. "It is really an attack against freedom of the press. People who don't agree with the publication of STL should utilise legal mechanisms of complaint," Belo said.

STL is perceived to favour the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor party (CNRT), headed by independence hero Xanana Gusmao. Gusmao was appointed prime minister after he formed a new coalition government, a result that angered former governing party and rival the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), which could not rule the 66-seat Parliament despite winning 21 seats to the CNRT's 18 in the recent elections.

The attack at the STL office follows another on its employee, Abel Mateus Do Rosario, who works in the circulation department.

On 31 July, Rosario was riding on his motorcycle and headed toward the main street to the country's sole airport when he was stopped by two youths who asked whether he worked for STL. When he acknowledged the fact, the two young men and their friends quickly hit him with stones and wooden sticks. Rosario sustained injures on his face and hand, and had to seek treatment after he got away from his attackers, who also robbed him of US$65 and destroyed his motorcycle.

SEAPA joins its partner, the Timor Lorosa'e Journalists Association (TLJA), in condemning the attacks against the staff and office of STL.

"Political leaders should encourage their sympathisers not to use violence in expressing their anger," said TLJA President Virgilio Da Silva Guterres.

Guterres urged political leaders and militant groups of political parties not to target the media and journalists in their unhappiness with the political situation.

TLJA has sent a press release urging all political leaders and the people to allow journalists to gather information and publish it freely according to their codes of ethics and professionalism. TLJA also called on the police to investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice.

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