/** reg.easttimor: 2712.0 **/
** Topic: SCMP/Dili: Intimidation: 600+ journalists leave; 26 remain **
** Written 11:28 PM Sep 5, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: SCMP/Dili: Intimidation: 600+ journalists leave; 26 remain
Joyo Note: The UNAMET press office listed 627 journalists in E. Timor on August 30, the day of the referendum/consultation.
South China Morning Post Monday, September 6, 1999
South China Morning Post correspondent Joanna Jolly is one of only 26 journalists left in East Timor. Her colleagues - who write for the Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Kyodo News Agency - all work under the threat of attack from militias. At least 500 other journalists have fled to the safety of Jakarta.
The game is to intimidate journalists into leaving
We were told that militia would attack the Turismo Hotel where we had all moved for safety. There's a Polri [Indonesian police] presence at the front of the hotel, which we were paying for.
But Marines came to the hotel yesterday. And when the Marines came to the hotel to inform us of the threat of attack, the police said they could not guarantee they could defend us.
Police insisted they would evacuate us to Polda, the local police HQ.
However, journalists refused to go there, believing they would take us from there to the airport and we would be forced to leave East Timor. Instead, negotiations were made to take journalists to the Unamet compound, where over 700 Unamet staff are now holed up - trapped basically, unable to move around Dili.
A group of 12 journalists and activists decided to stay in the hotel, as they believed the rumours of the attack were a part of a deliberate plan to evacuate us. They don't want to be shoved around like that. We're really worried about them.
One of those who chose to stay there is James Dunn, an amazing man, 71 years old and determined to stay [James Dunn was the last Australian consul in Dili before the Indonesian invasion in December 1975 and has since written at length about East Timor].
The rest of us and hotel staff were forced on to Marine trucks and driven at high speed to the UN compound.
On the journey, militia were shooting, firing on us with homemade weapons.
I saw them running through the streets without any restriction. Now we're extremely worried about the situation in the hotel but at last contact they said they were fine.
Dili has totally shut down. We clubbed together and bought all the remaining food in the Turismo and went on a food run to the Mahkota Hotel to pick up leftovers. The journalists who went there were caught in a gunbattle. Police took them back to the car and told them they would escort them back to the Turismo.
Instead they were taken to the airport and left. They had to find their own way back, but were able to hitch on to the back of [Unamet chief] Ian Martin's convoy.
On Saturday night, there was a five-hour gunbattle outside the hotel. Some shots appeared extremely close. However, at no time did we come under direct attack.
Also on Saturday night, the Portuguese observer mission came under attack. They were sheltering refugees in their house. Militia came in with machetes and threatened to come back later and so they were evacuated to the UN compound, where they now are.
We're now surviving off ration boxes. The UN compound is totally unprepared for this number of people. I'll be sleeping in my shirt and jeans, straight on the cold floor.
It's chaos here, people running everywhere, lots of shooting.
Before all this started, we were getting organised amongst ourselves. Staff at the Turismo had fled, and we had to buy all the provisions off them that we could, including the water.
We started setting up committees - for food, for escape or evacuation.
Lots of us didn't get much sleep last night, as the militia had threatened to attack. We had got a rope and tied it up so that we could go down it and jump the last 20 metres into the [International Committee of] the Red Cross next door.
Across town, you can see militia members with homemade guns and knives, just roaming, shooting.
Lots of buildings are burning. There's a smoke plume from the UN compound - not so big though, that's alright. Smoke from fires is hanging over the town.
This is serious intimidation towards us. We totally believe this is part of their game.
** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **