Bangkok – Authorities in East Timor should drop their investigation into journalist Raimundos Oki and stop using legal threats to curb independent reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On June 29, officers with the Scientific Police for Criminal Investigation, a forensic investigation body, summoned Oki for questioning, according to news reports and the journalist, who communicated with CPJ via email.
During an hour-long questioning session the following day in Dili, the capital, officers told Oki, editor-in-chief of the news website The Oekusi Post, that he was under investigation for violating judicial secrecy laws over his reporting on alleged police abuses, according to those sources.
That reporting, published on June 23, 2021, alleged that state prosecutors had ordered police to detain about 30 young girls who were suspected victims of sexual assault, and said that, in pursuit of evidence of assault, police officers had performed forced "virginity tests" on the girls that resulted in physical injuries.
"East Timor journalist Raimundos Oki was simply doing his job by reporting on allegations that police abused young girls in pursuit of criminal evidence; he should not be harassed for exercising his freedom of expression rights that are guaranteed under Timorese law," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "Authorities must drop their outrageous investigation into Oki immediately, and ensure that he can work without fear."
If charged and convicted of violating judicial confidentiality, a criminal offense under Article 291 of the penal code, Oki could face up to six years in prison.
After his questioning on June 30, Oki received a letter from authorities notifying him that he was a defendant in a legal secrecy case, and saying he was required to report to authorities if he planned to travel abroad, he told CPJ.
No court date has been set in the case, Oki said.
CPJ submitted a request for comment to the East Timor public prosecutor's office through its official website, but did not immediately receive any response.
In December 2021, American missionary Richard Daschbach, the subject of that police investigation, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexually abusing young girls, according to news reports.