Odd verdict on journalist defamation case

salsinha and okiDili court fines accused while aquitting them of criminal liability

[Alert Update] A District Court in Dili absolved on 14 March 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.

[Update, 21 March: The judge has also suspended the informant Mateus Sufa from giving any information to the media for a period of one year.]

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.

[See the original Alert report on this incident: [Timor Leste] Court verdict due on defamation trial of 2 journalists]

[Original title: Odd verdict on Timor Leste journalist defamation case]