“Are we journalists really going to work here from now on?”, Evaristo Soares Martins asks, looking around. He examines the electrical sockets, eyes the computers, inspects the radio room through the large glass window. Carpenters are still hammering away at fixing the staircase railing but the air conditioners are on and the coolness is a relief from the tropical heat of Timor-Leste.
We are in Dili, visiting the newly built newsroom “Uma Komunikasaun”, Communications House, alongside the National Parliament. The media centre is part of a USD 4 million Decentralisation programme which aims at boosting the digital transformation of the Parliament by bringing lawmakers closer to the citizens. It is supported by the European Union in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme UNDP.
Evaristo, 35 years old, is a veteran journalist, having worked for radio and State television. He has now been reporting with Tatoli news agency for two years. He is one of the journalists accredited to follow parliamentary proceedings.
“This newsroom is just what we needed. Timorese reporters have never had such a modern multifunctional working space – he says, sitting in the roller chair at the large meeting table, on the first floor of Communications House. - The work environment for those following the parliamentary sessions is exhausting. Since we don't have access to the plenary room, we have to stay outside to record the Parliamentary sessions, no matter what the weather and health conditions are. We have to stand up for hours next to a loudspeaker hanging from the ceiling, with our arm up in the air to record the proceedings”.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, on 3 May, the European Union Ambassador Andrew Jacobs, the President of the National Parliament of Timor-Leste Mr. Aniceto Longuinhos Guterres Lopes and UNDP Resident Representative Munkhtuya Altangerel, inaugurated Uma Komunikasaun with a simple ribbon-cutting formality, to comply with the Government's rules on covid19 movement restrictions.
World Press Freedom Day celebrates the important role played by journalists and is a reminder to governments across the globe of the need to promote access to quality information as a basic human right.
In Timor-Leste, the new journalists’ newsroom will favour an effective relationship between Parliament and the press, and will improve legislative reporting, thus bringing Parliament closer to the people. Uma Komunikasaun will provide computers and internet connection to facilitate research and analysis by journalists so that they can best inform the people of Timor-Leste of democratic decision-making by the deputies who represent them. The fully equipped media centre provides TV and radio equipment so reporters no longer have to be standing with their arm raised to record sessions. Equipped with a meeting room and a studio for live interviews, the media centre will provide modern state of the art working conditions to media professionals covering Parliamentary affairs, allowing Parliament to become more open, transparent and accessible for the Timorese citizens.
In the context of COVID-19 and the State of Emergency in Timor-Leste, the media has a key role to play to ensure the timely dissemination of accurate information to the public. Journalists have an important part to play in the fight against the global pandemic. It is now more important than ever that journalists do their work freely and accurately to oppose disinformation and fake news, ensuring that citizens have access to crucial, and reliable information.
Uma Komunikasaun is not only beautiful with the colourful local material it is made of, it is a monument to freedom of information, human rights, and democracy.
The EU Decentralisation programme, implemented and co-financed by the UNDP, is complementary to an EU EUR 11.25 million budget support programme that supports the implementation of the Government’s decentralisation strategy, designed to empower local authorities.