Two journalists have been summoned by the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) after publishing two articles on a minister's request to dismiss Gastao Pereira, the Director of Internal Intelligence at the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Timor-Leste Press Union (TLPU), in condemning the summons and urging the authorities to cease targeting journalists and safeguard press freedom.
Editor-in-chief of the Jornal Independente, Jorginho dos Santos, and journalist, Domingos Gomes received letters from law enforcement summoning them to a police station for their article detailing recent political developments in Timor-Leste.
The piece detailed allegations that Timor-Leste's Deputy Minister of Justice, Jose Edmundo Caetano, had sent a letter to senior government officials requesting the resignation of National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director of Internal Intelligence, Gastao Pereira, for his failure to comply with disclosure regulations.
According to reports, Pereira is accused of sharing confidential information about an upcoming investigation into the seizure of USD 130,000 and 40 million Indonesian Rupiahs (approx. USD 2,566) at a Timor-Leste airport.
The summoning of the Santos and Gomes by police is the latest in a series of media rights violations in Timor-Leste. In May, the IFJ documented defamation charges brought by a parliament minister against journalist Francisco Belo Simoes da Costa, following coverage of an allegation of ministerial corruption. Two months later, the chief editor of news portal Oekusipost.com, Raimundos Oki, was accused of breaching judicial secrecy for an investigative report arguing that several virginity tests were forcibly conducted on inmates at the Topu Honis Shelter in Kutet, Oeecusse.
The TLPU said: TLPU stands firm on its position to promote and defend freedom of expression and information, and freedom of the press and media. Therefore, TLPU laments the illegal action of the PNTL as journalists are not criminals and perpetrators. TLPU demands that PNTL must stop issuuing unjustifiable notification letters to the media and journalists."
The IFJ said: "All journalists must be able to report on issues in the public interest without fear of reprisal or legal harassment. The IFJ condemns the summoning of Jorginho dos Santos and Domingos Gomes by Timor-Leste police and urges the government to uphold press freedom."
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