Timor-Leste is, sadly, again exploding into violence as disgruntled former soldiers have turned on their former bosses. Australian and New Zealand troops have been deployed in the country in a sad echo of what happened in 1999. This after billions of dollars of aid from the West to rebuild a nation that survived a quarter century of Indonesian occupation and a brutish withdrawal that left most of the Indonesian-built infrastructure in ruins or flames.
But there’s another sad aspect to this story: Millions of dollars from governments and multilateral organisations have been invested in the East Timorese media but nowhere can you find an active East Timor-based web site shedding light on the situation. All 1,500+ news reports that one can find on Google are all from foreign news sources. The web site of Suara Timor Lorasae, formerly Suara Timor Timor and one of three newspapers in Dili, is down with its bandwidth exceeded, presumably due to excessive reader interest. Timor Post, another newspaper, has not been updated since June 2005 [sic]. The third, Diario, does not seem to have a web site. The website of RTTL – Radio-Televisão Timor Leste, the government body responsible for Radio Timor Leste, the state radio station, and its TV counterpart TVTL — is still under construction (the website was registered in 2003.) Another, East Timor Press, hasn’t been updated since, er, 2004. (Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Timor, which was updated yesterday to include the deployment of Australian, New Zealand, Malaysian and Portuguese troops.)
I can find no East Timor site working out of East Timor that has any information about this uprising, the most important development in the country’s recent history. OK, so not many Timorese have access to the Internet but this is a vital link with the outside world, a chance for Timorese to convey what is going on to governments, exiled Timorese, interested readers and others. Now, in the midst of terrible violence and the humiliation of seeking outside military intervention, there is again no domestic media getting the story to the world’s most important medium.