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Proposed Law on Media
Proposta Lei Imprensa

7 February 2014.    Updated 5 August 2014

Contents of this page

Konteúdu pájina ida ne’e

Articles 40 and 41 of Timor-Leste's Constitution guarantee freedom of expression, information and press for all people. Although these freedoms have been in effect (and well-used) since the restoration of independence in 2002, state authorities and international consultants have been working on drafts of laws to regulate the media for many years, often consulting with local and journalists and media organizations. The current draft was approved by the Council of Ministers on 6 August 2013 and sent to Parliament for enactment.

Parliamentary Committees A and C held hearings during the week of 3 February 2014 with journalists' associations, but others who will be affected by the law (academics, NGOs, bloggers, book publishers, users of information, etc.) were not consulted. Consequently, Committee A scheduled additional hearings (see below)

La'o Hamutuk had many concerns about the draft law, and welcomes advice from experts inside and outside Timor-Leste to help us understand it better and propose constructive revisions. We would also appreciate if someone with better Portuguese skills could improve our rough English translation.

On first glance, we worry about these issues, but there are undoubtedly many more:

  • The law should respect the rights of all people, not only citizens, as the Constitution does. (throughout)

  • Media and journalism are defined too broadly to include anyone who collects and disseminates information (bloggers, Facebook posters, NGOs, institutions, book authors and publishers, etc.) (Article 2)

  • Part-time, student and freelance journalists would be barred from their work unless they have been certified by the Press Council (after serving a six-month internship) and work with a recognized media outlet. (Articles 6-7)

  • Foreign journalists would be barred (Article 6) or require Government permission. (Article 13.8)

  • The laws prevents political parties, non-media businesses, and state employees from working as journalists (very broadly defined) or having their own media. (Article 8, 13.6)

  • Exceptions ("under the law") undermine freedom of the press (Articles 10.3, 10.5 and others)

  • Non-corporate media are not allowed (Article 13.2, 15)

  • Advertising rules are impossible to implement on radio and deny publishers the right to advance their advertisers' interests -- a reality in a profit-driven society. (Article 16)

  • Harsh penalties effectively reinstate the defamation law which was intentionally removed from the Penal Code. (Article 20.1(f))

  • The Press Council includes no representatives of media consumers. (Article 22)

In response to concerns like these raised by La'o Hamutuk and many others, Committee A held additional public hearings on the draft law on 19-21 February according to this schedule. They heard from NGOs, academics, church groups, women's groups, state agencies and political parties.

La'o Hamutuk and the HAK Association testified before Committee A on 19 February.  We presented our written submission, and in the discussion President Carmelita Moniz assured us that this law is only intended to apply to for-profit media companies, not everyone who engages in "journalistic activities." She also said that "citizen" doesn't only mean "citizen of Timor-Leste," so that non-citizens' right will be respected. We hope that the draft law is revised to make this unambiguous.

Artigu 40 no 41 iha Konstituisaun RDTL, garantia liberdade atu ko’alia, liberdade atu hetan informasaun no liberdade imprensa ba ema hotu. Maski liberdade ida ne’e implementa ona (no utiliza ho di’ak) dezde Timor-Leste restaura nia independénsia iha tinan 2002, autoridade estadu no assessor internasionál servisu durante tinan barak atu halo esbosu lei atu regula imprensa, dala ruma sira halo konsultasaun ho jornalista no imprensa lokál sira. Esbosu lei ne’e hetan ona aprovasaun hosi Konsellu Ministru iha loron 6 Agusto 2013 no hato’o ona ba Parlamentu Nasional atu aprova.

Komisaun A no C iha Parlamentu Nasional halo audiénsia durante semana ida hahú 3 Fevreiru 2014 ho asosiasaun jornalista, maibé ema seluk ne’ebé hetan impaktu husi lei ne’e seidauk hetan konsultasaun (akademiku sira, ONG, ema ne’ebé kria pájina web, ema ne’ebé halo publikasaun ba livru, ema ne’ebé uza informasaun no seluk tan).

La’o Hamutuk preokupa tebes ho esbosu ida ne’e, no ami kontente atu simu sujestaun husi peritu sira iha Timor-Leste no husi rai li’ur atu ajuda ita hodi kompriende di’ak liu tan esbosu ida ne’e no fó sujestaun konstrutivu ba revizaun. Ami mós apresia se karik ema ne’ebé iha koñesimentu di’ak iha lingua Portugés bele ajuda hodi hadi’ak ami nia tradusaun Ingles ne’ebé seidauk perfeitu.

Se ita haree liu de’it, ita preokupa kona ba asuntu tuir mai maibé klaru katak iha barak liu tan:

  • Lei tenke respeita ema hotu nia direitu, la’ós sidadaun de’it, tuir Konstituisaun hatete. (iha esbosu lei tomak)

  • Definisaun ba imprensa no jornalizmu luan demais inklui ema hotu ne’ebé koleta no fahe informasaun (ema ne’ebé halo pájina web, ema ne’ebé tau informasaun iha Facebook, ONG, instituisaun, hakerek na’in no ema ne’ebé publika livru, no seluk tan. (Artigu 2)

  • Ema ne’ebé servisu oras sorin, estudante, no jornalista freelance (independente) sei hetan bandu ba sira nia servisu se sira la hetan sertifikasaun husi Konsellu Imprensa (hafoin halo estajiadu durante fulan neen) ka la servisu ho imprensa ne’ebé hetan rekoñesimentu. (Artigu 6-7)

  • Jornalista hosi rai li’ur sei la autoriza (artigu 6) ka sei presiza hetan lisensa hosi governu. (Artigu 13.8)

  • Esbosu lei ne’e prevene partidu polítiku, kompañia naun-imprensa, no funsionáriu públiku atu servisu nudár jornalista (jornalista iha definisaun ne’ebé luan tebes) ka iha sira nia imprensa rasik. (Artigu 8, 13.6)

  • Esepsaun (“iha lei nia okos”) hafraku liberdade imprensa. (Artigu 10.3, 10.5 no seluk tan)

  • Imprensa non-korporasaun la autoriza. (Artigu 13.2, 15)

  • Regra publisidade labele aplika ba radio no regra ne’e nega direitu ba sira ne’ebé publika atu promove ema halo publisitariu nia interese-ne’e -- realidade iha sosiedade ne’ebé buka lukru de’it. (Artigu 16)

  • Sansaun todan sei reativa fali ba lei defamasaun ne’ebé ho intensaun hamoos ona iha Kódigu Penal. (Artigu 20.1(f))

  • Konsellu Imprensa la inklui reprezentante husi imprensa nia leitor no rona na'in sira. (Artigu 22)

Komisaun A husi PN hetan preokupasaun hanesan ne'e husi ema no group balun, entaun sira deside atu halo audiensia publika tolu tan, iha loron 19-21 Fevereiru iha Tibar Beach Retreat, tuir kalendariu iha liman karuk. Sira sei rona husi akademiku, NGO, igreja, grupu feto, ajensia estadu no partidu politiku sira.

La'o Hamutuk no Asosiasaun HAK fó testemuña ba Komisaun A iha loron 19 Fevereiru. Ami fó ami nia submisaun, no iha diskusaun tuir mai, Prezidente Komisaun Carmelita Moniz garantia katak lei ida ne'e sei aplika de’it ba empreza imprensa komérsial, la’ós ema hotu ne’ebé hala’o "atividade jornalistika." Nia mós hatete katak "sidadaun" la signifika "sidadaun Timor-Leste," entaun lei ida ne'e respeita ema hotu-hotu nia direitu. Ami hein katak ezbosu lei ida ne'e hetan revizaun atu klarifika buat rua ne'e.

Law goes to Plenary

Parliament Committee A finalized its Report and Opinion (Portuguese original) on the law on 28 February, identifying many of its flaws and controversial topics. They read the 29-page report to the Parliamentary plenary session on 11 March. Two hours of debate followed, most of which concerned issues of personal concern to Members (such as being misquoted or defamed, and the right of political parties to own media). Although the draft law is largely based on Indonesia's discredited Press Council, Secretary of State for Media Nelio Isaac agreed with MP Mandati that Timor-Leste doesn't want "Pancasila Democracy." At 5:30 that afternoon, the MPs approved the law in generality, with 49 votes in favor, none opposed and one abstention, as announced by Government Press Release and in the Tetum notes of the session.

Because Committee A's report discusses general issues and controversies without proposing specific amendments, the bill is being sent back to the Committee for article-by-article revision, after which the plenary will resume discussion on specifics. Concerns have been raised that this process, likely behind closed doors, will prevent the press and public from observing the substantive debate.

RTTL hosted a two-hour debate with journalists, civil society representatives and others on Friday, 28 March, but unfortunately Parliament and Government representatives declined to attend.

Parliament Committee A took several weeks to revise the law, and nearly doubled the number of articles  They presented their report (Portuguese) and  amended version of the law (original Portuguese) to the Parliamentary plenary on 5 May.

On 6 May, the National Parliament gave final approval to the Media Law. 53 deputies voted in favor, nobody voted against, and 4 abstained. Eight others were absent.

There were no significant changes to the content of the draft law during the Plenary debate, only two amendments. MPs Antonino Bianco and Paulo Moniz proposed changing Article 6 of the draft, not to give an annual subsidy from the State Budget to profit-oriented or commercial media. The other amendment, from MP Carmelita Moniz to Article 45, about the composition of the Press Council, removes the requirement that one of the two Parliamentary representatives be a lawyer and allows the Press Council to elect its President from any of its five members.

Soon after Parliament approved the law, the Secretary of State for Media invited media organizations to sign MOUs to receive subsidies from the Government. Tempo Semanal and the Timor-Leste Press Union refused, but other media signed the MOU and will receive $5,000 to $20,000 each.  According to the Government's Transparency Portal on 10 June, the SoS had not executed any public transfers through the end of April 2014, but $22,412 was distributed in May and $21,741 in the beginning of June.

Although Parliament had not yet transmitted the law to President Taur Matan Ruak, on 29 May La'o Hamutuk and other organizations wrote a letter (abridged blog, Tetum original) urging the President to veto the law, "because it will harm democracy and human rights, restrict many people’s rights to freedom of expression, and give power to a single group to issue a few licenses while limiting other people’s rights to share information. We believe this violates Timor-Leste’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

The President of Republic still had not received the law by mid-June. Committee A chair Carmelita Moniz told reporters that her Committee had finalized the wording and sent it to Parliamentary President Vicente Guterres, but Mr. Guterres said he had not received it, leading some media to say it was "lost" in Parliament.

Parliament sent the proposed law (also Portuguese) to President Taur Matan Ruak on 25 June, 50 days after it was approved. Under Article 88 of the Constitution, the President has 30 days in which to promulgate it or veto and send it back to Parliament for further study.

On 3 July, the President's Legal Advisor invited about 50 representatives of media and civil society to discuss the law, and many Presidential advisors listened to our concerns for more than three hours. Chief of Staff Fidelis Magalhaes said that the President will decide by 15 June whether to sign, veto or ask the Court of Appeals for advice on constitutionality.

On 8 July, former President Jose Ramos-Horta, having just returned from heading the UN Mission in Guinea-Bissau, met with President Taur Matan Ruak. According to media reports, JRH urged TMR to veto the proposed law, saying that media all over the world make mistakes, but that a free press is essential for democracy to move forward. In a 14 July column in Timor Post, acting U.S. ambassador Scott Ticknor described how freedom of the press is essential to democracy.

On 14 July, the President announced that he had submitted the Media Law to the Court of Appeals, requesting the Court to review its constitutionality, particularly to ensure that "the regulations approved regarding Freedom of the Press will not excessively limit the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in Article 41 of the Constitution." We understand that the President asked the Court to look at how the law relates to at least seven Constitutional articles, as well as several principles.

According to article 149.2 of Timor-Leste's Constitution, the Court has 25 days -- that is, until 8 August -- to present its opinion to the President.

We wish the Court and the President wisdom as they consider the impact of this law on Timor-Leste's democracy and society, as well as on journalists, before the President decides whether to veto or promulgate it.

Lei ba Plenária Parlamentu

Komisaun A PN finaliza ninia Relatoru no Paraser (Ingles) (orijinál Portugés) iha loron 28 Fevereiru, no sira identifika frakeza no topiku problematiku balun. Sira lee relatóriu ho pájina 29 ba Plenária Parlamentu nian iha loron 11 Marsu. Hafoin debate oras rua, Deputadu/a sira preokupa ho asuntu pertense ba sira rasik (hanesan kuotasaun falsu, defamasaun, no partidu polítiku bele na'in ba media). Maski esbosu lei bazeia husi Konsellu Imprensa Indonesia nian (lakon kredibilidade agora), Sekretáriu Estadu ba Komunikasaun Sosiál Nelio Isaac konkorda ho Deputadu Mandati katak Timor-Leste lakohi "Demokrasia Pancasila." Iha tuku 5:30 loraik, Parlamentu aprova lei iha jeneralidade, ho votus 49 favor, 0 kontra, no 1 abstensaun, hanesan fó sai iha Komunikadu Imprensa Governu nian no notulen husi PN.

Tanba Pareser husi Komisaun A diskute asuntu jerál no la sujere alterasaun espesífiku, esbosu lei ida ne'e tama fila fali ba Komisaun atu hare revizaun ba kada artigu. Depois Plenária bele kontinua debate iha espesialidade. Ema balun preokupa katak prosesu ida ne'e, laho transparansia, bele prevene media no públiku atu hare diskusaun kona ba asuntu importante.

RTTL organiza debate oras rua ho jornalista sira, sosiedade sivíl sira no ema seluk iha loron Sesta, 28 Marsu, maibé infelizmente reprezentante sira husi Parlamentu Nasionál no Governu la marka prezensa.

Komisaun A Parlamentu presiza semana balu atu altera lei ida ne'e, no besik aumenta numeru artigu nian dala rua kompara ho versaun uluk nian. Sira aprezenta sira nia relatoriu (Portuges) no halo alterasaun foun ba lei (Portuges) ba iha plenaria Parlamentar iha loron 5 Maiu.

Iha loron 6 Maiu, Parlamentu Nasionál halo aprovasaun final global ba proposta Lei Imprensa, Deputadu na’in 53 vota favor, laiha ida mak kontra no abstensaun na’in 4. Deputadu nain 8 la marka prezensa.

Laiha mudansa signifikante ba iha konteúdu ezbosu lei ne’e durante debate iha Plenária Parlamentár, so úniku de’it iha proposta alterasaun rua hosi Deputadu Antonino Bianco no Paulo Moniz ba Artigu 6 Ezbosu Lei ne’e, atu labele fó subsídiu annual ho Orsamentu Jerál Estadu nian tinan-tinan ba imprensa ne’ebé orienta ba lukru ka imprensa komersiál sira. No alterasaun seluk hosi Deputada Carmelita Moniz ba Artigu 45, katak ema na’in rua ne’ebé sei reprezenta Parlamentu nian iha Konsellu Imprensa ne’e la’ós tenke ema jurista ida, no mós independentemente, membru sira hosi Konsellu Imprensa mak sei hili sira nia Prezidente, entre ida hosi sira na’in lima ne’e.

Hafoin Parlamentu aprova lei ne’e, Sekretáriu Estadu Komunikasaun Sosiál konvida instituisaun media sira atu asina nota intendementu (MoU) hodi hetan subsídiu husi Governu. Tempo Semanál no Timor-Leste Press Union (TLPU) rejeita, maibé media seluk asina MoU. Bazeia ba Governu nia Portal Transparénsia iha loron 10 fulan Juñu, Sekretáriu Estadu ida ne'e seidauk halo transferénsia públiku too loron ikus iha fulan Abril 2014, maibé iha fulan Maiu distribui ona $22,412 no mós $21,741 iha inisiu fulan Juñu.

Too 10 Junu, Parlamentu seidauk haruka lei refere ba Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak atu promulga. Maske nune'e, iha loron 29 Maiu La'o Hamutuk no organisasaun sira seluk hakerek karta atu husu Prezidente Republika atu veto, "tanba Lei ne’e sei estraga demokrasia no direitus umanu, esklui ema barak nia direitu ba liberdade espresaun, fó de’it podér ba grupu ida de’it atu fó lisensa ba ema balu no limita ema seluk atu fahe informasaun. Ami konsidera ida ne’e viola Konstituisaun no Konvensaun Internasionál ba Direitu Sivíl no Polítika."

Prezidente Republika la simu lei ida ne'e to iha Junu nia klaran. Prezidente Komisaun A Carmelita Moniz hateten ba jornalista sira katak ninia Komisaun finaliza ona letra no haruka ona ba Prezidente Parlamentu Vicente Guterres, maibe Sr. Guterres hateten nia seidauk simu buat ne'e, hodi halo media balu hateten lei ida ne'e "lakon" iha Parlamentu.

Parlamentu haruka lei refere (Portuges ka Ingles) ba Prezidente Republika Taur Matan Ruak iha loron 25 fulan Junu, loron 50 hafoin sira aprova. Tuir Konstituisaun, Prezidente bele promulga ka veta iha loron 30 no haruja fali ba Parlamentu atu halo estudu tan.

Iha 3 Jullu, Asesor Legal Prezidente nian konvida maizumenus reprezentante media no sosiedade sivil nain 50 atu diskute lei ida ne'e, no asesor Prezidente barak mak rona ba ami nia preokupasaun durante liu oras tolu. Xefe Casa Civil Fidelis Magalhaes hateten katak Prezidente sei deside atu asina, veto ka husu ba Tribunal Rekursu atu hetan konsellu konstitusionalidade molok liu 15 Jullu.

Iha 8 Jullu, eis Prezidente Repúblika Jose Ramos-Horta, ne’ebé foin fila hosi knar lidera Misaun ONU iha Guinea-Bissau, hasoru malu ho Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak. Tuir kobertura media sira, JRH husu ba TMR atu veta ba proposta lei ne'e, hodi hateten katak media iha mundu tomak halo failansu, maibé liberdade imprensa ne'e esensiál ba demokrasia atu la’o ba oin. Iha loron 14 Jullu, colum ida in Timor Post husi Embaixadór interinu EUA nian Scott Ticknor hateten oinsá liberdade imprensa ne'e esensiál ba demokrasia.

Iha loron 14 Jullu, Prezidente Repúblika Taur Matan Ruak fó sai katak nia hatama Lei Imprensa ba Tribunál Rekursu hodi halo fiskalizasaun preventiva ba dekretu hirak-ne’e nia konstitusionalidade. "Objetivu husi desizaun hirak-ne’e atu asegura katak normas ne’ebé temi iha regulamentu kona-ba Liberdade Imprensa nian ne’e sei la limita barak liu sidadaun sira-nia direitu fundamentál hirak ne’ebé sira hetan tiha ona husi art. 41 Konstituisaun nian." Ami rona katak Prezidente husu ba Tribunal atu hare lei ne’ebé relasaun mínimu artigu hitu husi Konstituisaun, no mós prinsípiu balun tan.

Ami espera katak Tribunal Rekursu no Prezidente Repúblika sei halo desizaun di’ak liu bainhira sira konsidera impaktu husi lei ne’e ba demokrasia no povu iha Timor-Leste, no mós jornalista sira, molok Prezidente deside atu promulga ka veta lei ida ne'e.

Documents

Portuguese is the official language of all legal documents; translations may contain inadvertent differences.

Dokumentu

Portuges mak lian legal iha RDTL, tradusaun sira bele inklui erru balun.

Analysis, news and commentary in EnglishAnaliza, notisias no komentáriu iha lian Tetum

 

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