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Timor-Leste: Journalist charged for investigative report

International Federation of Journalists Press Release - July 5, 2022

Raimundos Oki, chief editor of news portal Oekusipost.com, has been accused of breaching judicial secrecy following an investigative report concerning the detention and forced virginity testing of 30 underage girls in 2020. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the charges and calls on the Timor-Leste government to immediately rescind the case.

On June 29, Oki received a telephone call from an officer at the Criminal Investigation Scientific Police (Policia Cientifica de Investigacao Criminal), instructing him to appear before police the following day. The journalist exercised his right to silence during the minute meeting.

Oki faces charges for allegedly breaching 'judicial confidentiality' under Article 291 of Timor Leste's Timor Code, with a penalty of one to six years imprisonment, for a report that argued several virginity tests were forcibly conducted on inmates at the Topu Honis Shelter in Kutet, Oecusse.

The report centered on evidence-gathering practices during the trial of Richard Daschbach, an American priest in Timor-Leste, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in December 2021 for sexually abusing children under his care.

According to Oki's report, the public prosecution ordered several local NGOs and police to detain around 30 underage girls for two weeks and performed forced virginity tests in June 2020.

Speaking to UCA News on July 1, Oki said, "When almost all media, including international media, focused on the former priest, I tried to bring up the other side, about the forced virginity test... I happen to be from Oecusse and I found those 30 girls. I spoke to them, and they admitted to being forced to undergo a virginity test."

In 2017, the Oki faced a year imprisonment for defamation following an article published by the Timor Post published in 2016, which referred to the then Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Rui Maria de Araujo, in his previous role as advisor to the Minister for Finance.

According to the article, Araujo recommended the winning bid for a project to supply and install computer equipment for the new Ministry of Finance building in 2014. In June 2017, a Dili judge dismissed all charges against Oki at the Dili Court.

The IFJ said: "The IFJ condemns the charges against Raimundos Oki and urges the Timor Leste authorities to respect press freedom. Governments must ensure journalists can do their jobs safely and securely, including holding public officials and authorities to account, without fear of prosecution. The repeated legal harassment of Oki is tantamount to persecution for publishing legitimate and independent reports in the public interest."

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

Source: https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-releases/article/timor-leste-journalist-charged-for-investigative-report.htm