I'm still trying to get my head around the events of the past couple of days. First the Timorese media made the bizarre decision of announcing a boycott of stories about the minister of foreign affairs, and then the media demanded an apology for the foreign minister's supposed bad attitude. It's a real head-scratcher.
I was hoping this might generate some lively discussion about the role of the media in Timor-Leste, but it hasn't yet. Professor Damien Kingsbury from Deakin University, Melbourne, however, made some good points here:
The decision by some of Timor-Leste's news media to boycott reporting stories on Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa is strange, perhaps absurd, and in broad disagreement with the function of an independent news media.
The media representatives have said they will not report on the Foreign Minister because he does not respect them. Unfortunately for them, his respect is not a criterion for the newsworthiness of his comments or actions, and it remains their job to report the news.
Moreover, the Timor-Leste news media have decided that they are a part of the news story, contravening the first rule of news reporting, that the journalist (or the media) is not the news – they are there simply to report the news.
This hits the nail on the head. The role of the media is to report the news — not become the news.
There have been improvements in the Timorese media in the time I've been here, but there are still many problems. This debacle, if it continues, will be a major step backwards for the media in this country.
The flimsy reasoning for the campaign against the foreign minister highlights that there is a great deal going on behind the scenes. This is what is most worrying. You can't just blame the media. It's the whole system.
I know I keep banging on about this, but I believe this can make for healthy discussion.