Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
 
Australia - Indonesia - Timor 16 November 2007

Coroner says death of "Balibo five" was premeditated war crime by Indonesian army
Next Australian prime minister urged to ensure murderers are tried in Australia

Reporters Without Borders hails the work of New South Wales coroner Dorelle Pinch, who issued an inquest report today that establishes with great detail that the Indonesian army was responsible for the death of five British, Australian and New Zealander journalists in East Timor in 1975. The report clearly shows they were eliminated because they too much about Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, which was just getting under way.

“The detailed and courageous inquest conducted by Dorelle Pinch shows that Indonesian army officers, including former special forces captain Yunus Yosfiah, are war criminals,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is deplorable that the Indonesian government immediately dismissed the findings of the Australian inquest.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We call on the next Australian prime minister to do everything possible to ensure that those who carried out these killings and those who gave them their orders are brought to trial on Australia. Although more than 30 years have gone by, this inquest shed light on every aspect of this multiple murder. It is vital that justice should now be done.”

The report issued today detailed the findings of a six-week inquest into the death of British cameraman Brian Peters on 16 October 1975 in the East Timor town of Balibo. Four other journalists were killed with him - Australian reporter Greg Shacketon, Australian soundman Tony Stewart, New Zealander cameraman Gary Cunningham and British reporter Malcolm Rennie.

Pinch has urged the Australian government to bring war crimes charges against those who killed them.

The Indonesian army has always refused to punish those responsible for their deaths and the deaths of other foreign journalists killed in Timor including Australian Roger East and Dutch Sander Thoenes.

According to Pinch’s report, the five journalists killed in Balibo, known as the “Balibo Five,” were arrested after filming the start of the Indonesian invasion and then executed. “The journalists were not incidental casualties in the fighting, they were captured, then deliberately killed despite protesting their status,” Pinch wrote in her report.

The inquest established that they were executed by Yosfia and Christoforus da Silva, another member of the Indonesian special forces, on the orders of their commander, Maj. Gen. Benny Murdani. The report also describes how the Australian, British and New Zealand governments helped cover up these murders by accepting the Indonesian version and by refusing to disclose relevant information they had obtained.

An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman today said the Pinch’s findings would not change his country’s position. “This court has a very limited jurisdiction and its decision will not change our stance about what happened,” he said.

Relatives of the journalists today welcomed Pinch’s report. “I never thought I would see this moment arrive,” Peters’ sister, Maureen Tolfree said. Several relatives voiced support for Pinch’s proposal that the Australian and Indonesian government should work together to have the remains of the journalists identified and returned home for burial.

The dozens of witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest included former government ministers, ambassadors and intelligence officers. They also included former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam. But former Indonesian military officers such as Yosfiah refused to testify to the inquest.




In this country
26 September - Australia
Federal police violate confidentiality of reporter’s sources by raiding his home
7 May - Australia
Police raid on Perth newspaper highlights need to protect confidentiality of sources
23 November - Australia
What the next prime minister must do to improve press freedom
6 June - Australia - Indonesia - East Timor
Australian authorities had no reason to apologise to Jakarta governor Sutiyoso
23 May - Australia - East Timor - Indonesia
Australian government alleged to have covered up murders of five journalists in Balibo

in the annual report
Australia - Annual report 2008
Australia- Annual report 2007
Australia - Annual report 2006

reports
4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election
archives

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised