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Odd verdict on East Timor journalist defamation case

A District Court in Dili absolved on 14 March 2013 two journalists of any criminal liability for defamation in connection with an article about alleged corruption of a state prosecutor.

The judge found no evidence of "slanderous denunciation" by the defendants, who published the news based on the information conveyed by the source.

However, the same court ruling imposed a civil indemnity fine for each defendant for causing psychological disturbance to the defendant from the distraction caused by the media exposure.

Raimundo Oki of the Jornal Independente, Oscar Maria Salsinha of the Suara Timor Lorosa'e, as well as the news informant Mateus Sufa, were ordered to pay the accused 150 USD each.

The Timor Leste Journalist Association president Tito Filipe disagreed with the imposition of a fine, pointing out that the defendants were absolved of liability for slanderous denunciation.

"The fine is a deterrent to journalists and the general public for exposing corruption in government institutions," Filipe added, "since it paves the way for similar lawsuits against journalists."

TLJA has requested the judiciary to withdraw the application of the crime of "slanderous denunciation" to the journalist profession.
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