Stiletto by Max Kolbe – July, 2007

War Crime Call as Tim Page Notches-Up a Birthday

Thirty-two years after the killing of five journalists in East Timor, an inquest into their deaths has been finalised with a call for war crimes charges to be laid.

Lawyer Mark Tedeschi argued against the official line that British, Australian and New Zealand journalists working for Australian television stations died in crossfire in a skirmish in the border town of Balibo on October 16, 1975.

Also at point is whether governments covered up the fact the alleged murders of “Balibo Five” by Indonesian troops ahead of the 1975 invasion of the then-Portuguese territory.

Tedeschi in summing up said the journalists had been killed in cold blood by Indonesian troops as they attempted to surrender to the troops, headed by Captain Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah.

“At least three of the journalists were shot by Indonesian troops after an order was given by Captain Yunus Yosfiah. He also joined in the shooting of those three,” Tedeschi said.

Another journalist was shot separately and the fifth was stabbed to death  by Indonesian officer Christoforus Da Silva, he said.

He said the killing of the journalists could constitute a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and those allegedly responsible could be prosecuted in Australia.

Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie were working for Australia’s Channel Nine when they were killed, while Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, and New Zealander Gary Cunningham, were working for Channel Seven.

Keep an eye out for a new movie on Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge and United Nations peace keeping by the New Zealander Stanley Harper.

Harper has enlisted the support of photographer and author of Vietnam Inc Phillip Jones Griffiths and David Puttnam, producer of “The Killing Fields”.

According to journalist Luke Hunt, one of the few who has seen the rushes, Harper’s work is an absolute winner and hopefully destined for a few awards after its scheduled release later this year.

A Pakistani journalist is seeking 833,333 dollars in damages from the BBC after claiming the Beeb had inferred he was connected with the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer.

Ehsan Qureshi, from the Associated Press of Pakistan, said footage of him talking to Woolmer was used by the British broadcaster in a defamatory manner in part of a Panaroma programme called “Death at the World Cup”.

It showed Qureshi in conversation with Woolmer at a social event during the two days before the coach died.

In a legal notice served to the BBC, his lawyers said the programme “gave an impression as if me and the other gentleman accompanying him were the suspects or had anything to do with the death of Bob Woolmer.” 

Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica the morning after Pakistan crashed out of the tournament.

It was later found he had died from natural causes.

When is enough enough? Don’t ask the British. Almost three weeks after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance from a Portuguese holiday apartment, the British media began asking itself if the blanket coverage of the hunt for the four-year-old had been over the top.

Some analysts have even compared the tidal wave of media attention to that after the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins called the coverage “absurdly over the top … prurient and tedious beyond belief,” and questioning the ethics of airing a family’s grief at peak time.

The publicly-run BBC had to defend itself from claims it has succumbed to tabloid values as speculation replaced concrete facts.

Compare that with Japan, Britain’s foreign secretary who asked the Japanese media to keep up their coverage of the murder of a British woman there as police search for the chief suspect.

Margaret Beckett said Britain appreciated the Japanese police investigation into the death of Lindsay Ann Hawker, 22, whose body was found in March covered in sand in a disconnected bathtub on an apartment balcony.

The death of the English teacher shocked Japan and Britain, prompting intense media coverage but with few leads to go on Beckett asked: “I hope no one will mind if I say the family wishes to ask the Japanese news media if you can give a little more coverage to this terrible and sad case in a hope that it will help to bring any perpetrator to justice.”

On June 4 — the 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre — Chinese newspapers proved predictable in ignoring any commentary of the slaughter that took place and would change the nation, instead they devoted many a column inch to lauding the success of the country’s stocks exchanges. Shanghai noted the manifesto by plunging 8.26 percent that day.

This column notes with great sadness the passing of foreign correspondent Kate Webb who chronicled the turbulent birth of modern Asia and became a media legend. She died of cancer aged 64.


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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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