Attacks on the Press
| East Timor
In August, as East Timor prepared to vote on whether to declare independence from Indonesia, military-backed, pro-Indonesia militias threatened, harassed and physically assaulted journalists covering the disputed territory. The attacks began shortly after the announcement in March of a United Nations-brokered agreement to hold an August 30 referendum on the independence issue.
The Indonesian military was bitterly opposed to the referendum, having occupied the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and fought a protracted war against independence. On April 17, following an escalating series of threats, rampaging militia members sacked the offices of Suara Timor Timur ("The Voice of East Timor"), the territory's only daily newspaper. The paper was shut down for more than two weeks, and many of its employees were driven into hiding. At about the same time, foreign journalists in East Timor began to face threats and beatings from the militias.