Paulina Quintao – The President of the Press Council Virgilio da Silva Guterres said Timor-Leste received high scores for Freedom of the Press at the international level and in the South-East Asia Region, despite there still being challenges and obstacles remaining.
According to a report from Reporters without Borders published on 24 April 2018, Timor-Leste's global index for Freedom of the Press improved from 98 in 2017 to 95 in 2018.
Guterres said that challenges remain for media organisations in terms of lack of facilities and infrastructure.
This is why according to Guterres, the media's focus is mainly on the capital Dili and does not fulfil the need of all Timorese citizens to access information across the country.
"I urge the public to respect the work of media organisations and to give information to journalists when undertaking their duties on the ground so they can contribute to the process of democratisation of our country," he said during a march to mark World Press Freedom Day from the roundabout next to CCD to Becora to lay flowers at the plaque in memory of journalist Sanders Robbert Thones, from Holland, who died while on duty covering the events of 1999 in Dili.
Guterres also urged media organisations to put the public interest above political and economic interest because during this election campaign much of the space for information has been filled with commercial publication of political parties' materials.
In relation to the police notifying citizens for making critical comments on social media (Facebook), Guterres said the reasons for the notifications were not clear and created public confusion.
The notifications raised doubts because the citizens who shared critical commentary on Facebook used fake IDs. He added these are the types of challenges to freedom of the press and of expression in Timor-Leste.
Meanwhile journalist Carlos Malilaka de Jesus said freedom of the press in Timor-Leste is guaranteed in the Constitution in articles 40 and 41.
"As journalists, we must appreciate this and the freedom of the press we have, and improve the quality of information we produce every day," he said.
He urged all journalists to empower themselves and contribute to the national development through the information they provide, with credibility and that responds to the needs to the public to know what is happening regarding developments taking place around them.
Resident Silverio Dato said he appreciated the work of journalists so far but that despite progress the quality and reach of their work needs to be made available to all municipalities.
He said also that only professional and quality journalism will give dignity to the public, especially the readers.
"I urge you to follow on the footsteps of journalist Sanders Robbert Thones and his colleagues who sacrified themselves to defend the truth," he said.