Draconian media law

No journalist has ever been jailed in connection with their work in Timor-Leste since this country of just 1.2 million inhabitants won independence in 2002. Articles 40 and 41 of its constitution guarantee free speech and media freedom. But various forms of pressure are used to prevent journalists from working freely, including legal proceedings designed to intimidate, police violence and public denigration of media outlets by government officials or parliamentarians. In 2020, journalists came under attack from the Catholic clergy, which is very powerful in Timor-Leste. A bishop inveighed against two media outlets that published an investigative article about a US priest accused of a sexual attack on a minor. The Press Council that was created in 2015 plays an active role in defusing any conflicts involving journalists, and works closely with university centres to provide aspiring journalists with sound ethical training. But the media law adopted in 2014, in defiance of the international community’s warnings, poses a permanent threat to journalists and encourages self-censorship. The unveiling of a proposed law in early 2020 under which defaming representatives of the state or Catholic church would have been punishable by up to three years in prison caused such a civil society outcry that the proposal was fortunately shelved.

in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index



78 in 2020

Global score


29.90 in 2020

  • 0
    journalists killed in 2021
  • 0
    citizens journalists killed in 2021
  • 0
    media assistants killed in 2021
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