31 March- In the context of COVID-19 and lockdown in Timor-Leste, the media has a key role to play to ensure the timely dissemination of accurate information to the public. Access to timely, high-quality information is imperative during a global health crisis. Journalists need to deal effectively with the disinformation that is making the pandemic harder to fight.
At a time when journalists are most needed many have lost income due to salary cuts and delayed payments, because of the economic downturn and restrictions imposed by the State of Emergency and lockdowns.
Therefore, the European Union and CEPAD (the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development), in agreement with the Association of Journalists AJTL and the Press Union of Timor-Leste, are giving telephone top-up cards to 450 journalists, each worth 10 USD, to help pay for internet and communications for one month.
The donation of internet cards is financed by the European Union under the initiative “Ensuring Government accountability of Covid-19 and improved Freedom and Access to Information in Timor-Leste”, implemented by CEPAD.
This initiative focuses specifically on groups that experience difficulties in accessing information. The project empowers citizens to access information through educational activities, to increase awareness about their rights and to foster participation in the democratic debate on Timor-Leste.
“CEPAD believes that reliable and truthful public information is of vital importance, especially during this time of COVID-19 crisis, and CEPAD feels privileged to support the media to ensure that such information is accessible by the public”, said Mr João Boavida, CEPAD Executive Director.
The European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste Andrew Jacobs said: “Difficult economic circumstances caused by Covid-19 mean that journalists’ livelihoods are threatened at a time when we need them most. Today I am very proud to support this initiative. Journalists need to have the means to report accurately and on a timely basis so that the public are informed about Covid-19, about how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and about how the battle against it is going. There has never been a more important time for free and independent media not just to survive, but to thrive. Independent journalism is essential to give the public access to accurate information and to counter disinformation about the pandemic.”
This initiative builds on other measures to help media houses and journalists, supported through “Osan Povu Nian, Jere ho Dia’k”, financed by the European Union and the Portuguese Cooperation. Support measures include the purchase of advertising spaces on newspapers and incentives to encourage the publication of articles in specialised areas for approximately 115 journalists.