Press group urges Rudd to resist Indonesia "blackmail"
Published: 17/09/2009 at 02:01 PM
A leading press freedom group has urged Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to resist Indonesian "blackmail" over a war crimes probe into the 1975 deaths of five Australia-based journalists.
Map locating Balibo in East Timor where five Australia-based journalists were gunned down by Indonesian troops in 1975. A leading press freedom group has urged Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to resist Indonesian "blackmail" over a war crimes probe into the 1975 deaths
Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) wrote an open letter to Rudd late Wednesday warning that the world was watching Australia's investigation of the "Balibo Five", who were killed during Indonesia's occupation of East Timor.
Australian police last week announced they had launched a war crimes probe into the deaths, nearly two years after a Sydney coroner ruled they had been deliberately murdered by Indonesian forces to keep the invasion secret.
The surprise move prompted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to warn that such an "inaccurate mindset" could damage relations with Jakarta, which considered the case to be closed.
Rudd has dismissed the comments as "bumps in the road" in Australia's sometimes fraught relationship with neighbouring Indonesia.
Jean-Francois Julliard, RSF secretary-general, said Yudhoyono's "hostility" was contrary to international justice and called on Rudd to take a strong stance.
"We urge you to find the political, diplomatic and judicial means to bring the perpetrators and instigators of this multiple murder to justice," Julliard wrote.
"We urge you, prime minister, not to yield to Indonesian diplomatic blackmail, which for too long has resulted in your country remaining silent on this matter."
Coroner Dorelle Pinch in 2007 said Indonesia's military had murdered the five -- Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie, Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, and New Zealander Gary Cunningham.
RSF said Pinch's inquiry "clearly showed Indonesian army officers committed war crimes", including Yunus Yosfiah, who rose to become the country's information minister in the late 1990s.
The journalists were killed in the East Timor border town of Balibo as they covered the Indonesian invasion that led to a brutal 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony.
Jakarta has always maintained the reporters died in crossfire as Indonesian troops fought East Timorese Fretilin rebels, a version of events accepted by successive Australian governments.