The nonviolent and nonthreatening demonstration was assisted by four Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) officers who kept the protesters and the traffic separate. After about an hour, the PNTL "Task Force" arrived and, without talking with anyone, immediately fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. The article at left from Diario Nacional describes the excessive force used by police without provocation.
Unfortunately, a Timorese stringer for Agence France-Press (AFP) falsely reported that "About 100 protesters in East Timor have thrown rocks at the Australian embassy," a slander eagerly propagated by media in Australia and around the world. As Mark Twain wrote long before the internet was conceived, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
On Friday morning we asked AFP to issue a retraction, telling them "We are disappointed that this news report criminalizes the nonviolent acts of Timorese people to ask for our sovereignty and dignity. And we are disappointed that the media in Australia and elsewhere so readily propagate a false report without a single confirmation, photo or byline." AFP took eleven hours and police confirmation that the protest was peaceful before they retracted the slander.
Their revised article is more accurate, but more than 24 hours after it was issued, Google found it on the internet only 17 times, while the original one still shows up more than 2,000 times. Australian radio (audio) also corrected the false stoning report, creating a new controversy by contrasting the facts with police claims that no tear gas was used.
On Friday afternoon, about 100 people joined a three-hour nonviolent demonstration across from the Embassy, with full cooperation of the police. Two representatives were invited into the Australian embassy to give their statement to Ambassador Miles Armitage, who told them he respects their right to demonstrate and will communicate their concerns to Canberra. Although this demonstration was covered by Timor-Leste television and Tempo Semanal, it was largely ignored by the international media, perhaps because all parties behaved peacefully and responsibly.
Why are the world's media so eager to report lies about violence committed by people from Timor-Leste, but so reluctant -- in the past and still today -- to report truthfully on those who commit violence against them?
boundary dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia.