Community radio journalists came out in force for the recent Journalist congress in Dili, joined by media workers from across the country to discuss and debate the draft media laws in Timor-Leste.

A strong cohort of community radio journalists voted on and approved the Code of Ethics, demonstrating to Government and the media industry that community radio represents a well-organised and professional network of journalists. ARKTL President Prezado Ximenes lobbied for and secured funds for community radio workers to attend, Ximenes said “the congress has opened up the opportunity for media in Timor-Leste to know and understand the strength of community radio in Timor-Leste in the process of nation building.” ARKTL has been lobbying since 2007 for Government and Parliament to legally recognise the existence of community radio in Timor-Leste and “the recent journalist congress is part of ARKTL’s effort to realize this mission”, said Ximenes.

However ARKTL was not permitted to sign the Code of Ethics because the Congress did not recognize ARKTL as a journalist association. ARKTL is the biggest media association in Timor-Leste and represents 16 community radio station members and over 80 journalists working nation-wide. ARKTL is a member of AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters and is recognised by AMARC as having worked to develop the community radio sector in Timor-Leste since 2007. Ximenes commented “It is not for me to decide what the congress’s decisions on ARKTL’s inclusion as a journalist association should be. However, I believe it is important to acknowledge the instrumental contribution ARKTL members made to the success of the congress more broadly”.”

Ximenes presented the opening address at the Congress speaking alongside President Xanana Gusmão. Ximenes is part of ‘Team 5’, sitting with fellow journalists Salvador Ximenes, Suzana Cardoso, Mauzinho Lopes and Otelio Ote. ‘Team 5’ is the body elected to represent journalists in the development of the new media laws in Timor-Leste. Ximenes was chosen by his team to lead the organising committee for the Congress. Key agenda points debated at the Congress included the draft Code of Ethics and the draft constitution for the to-be-elected Press Council.

‘Team 5’ now waits for Government to approve the final draft of the media laws.

However ‘Team 5’ and the journalist community are concerned that the government continues to refuse to make public the contents of the final draft which is due to be approved by Parliament early 2014.

You can view a previous draft of the Media Laws and read more about the process of drafting and approving these new laws on the ARKTL website.