The contribution of journalists to Timor-Leste independence, especially the journalists who died while carrying out their duties to cover the struggle of the Timorese to the international community, must always be remembered and encourage the people of Timor-Leste to continue to uphold freedom of the press.
This is the message conveyed during the unveiling of the Freedom of the Press Street plaque held by the Press Council of Timor-Leste on 22 September 2021.
The attendees during the event included former President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, Deputy Minister of State Administration Lino de Jesus Torrezao, CHEGA Director Hugo Maria Fernandes, Press Council President Virgilio da Silva Guterres, and UNESCO Project Coordinator for Timor-Leste Adelina Lourdes.
The President of the Press Council of Timor-Leste, Virgilio Guterres, recollected that 21 September 1999 was the day when Sander Thoenes, a Financial Times journalist, was shot and killed in Becora. Bernardino Guterres, a Timorese journalist, was also killed in the same area on 26 August 1999 during the clashes before the Timor-Leste independence. Based on these facts, the Timor-Leste Journalists Association declared the location where two journalists were killed as the Freedom of the Press Street. The Freedom of the Press Street plaque is a reminder for the people of Timor-Leste of the importance of press freedom and to always protect it.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of State Administration, Lino de Jesus Torrezao, underlined this event as a reminder to respect, appreciate and recognize the contributions of journalists who died in their duties.
UNESCO Project Coordinator for Timor-Leste, Adelina Lourdes, reiterated UNESCO supports in strengthening media self-regulation in Timor-Leste, particularly through capacity building of the Timor-Leste Press Council. In the long term, the project aims to promote an enabling environment for sustainable, free, independent and professional media in the country as an essential contributor to a democratic society.
The event is part of UNESCO activities on “Strengthening Media Self-Regulatory Mechanisms in Timor-Leste”, funded by the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Press Council of Timor-Leste.
The project contributes to SDG 16, specifically Target 16.10, where UNESCO is a Custodian Agency for Indicator 16.10.1 on access to information and Indicator 16.10.2 concerning the safety of journalists and media workers.