Journalists walk free after court battle with East Timor PM

Journalists walk free after court battle with East Timor PM

Journalists walk free after court battle with East Timor PM

Updated 1 June 2017, 20:40 AEST

The International Federation of Journalists hails as a victory the acquittal of two journalists in East Timor who were facing potential jail time for a story they wrote about the Prime Minister in 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has hailed as a victory the acquittal of two journalists in East Timor who had faced the threat of jail for a story they wrote about Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo in 2015.

Journalist Raimundos Oki and his former editor Lourenco Vicente Martins were facing charges of "slanderous denunciation" after Oki wrote an article mistakenly naming a company it claimed Mr Araujo had backed for a government contract.

They apologised and the IFJ said they printed a correction the next day, but Mr Araujo claimed the article damaged his reputation and pressed the criminal defamation charges.

Reporters and supporters had taken to the streets of Dili to protest the charges with prosecutors seeking a one year jail term for Oki.

Oki also received support from former Timorese president Taur Matan Ruak and Australian journalist Peter Greste.

Only in the last week did the Prime Minister declare he did not want them jailed.

On Thursday, a court in Dili threw out the case.

The IFJ said it is a pivotal victory against criminal defamation laws and those trying to send journalists to jail for trying to their jobs.

It had previously warned Mr Araujo that "the resorting to punitive criminal action can be viewed only by our organisations as draconian and disproportionate".

It also said the charging of the two journalists "threatened to significantly undermine press freedom in Timor Leste by engendering a culture of fear and intimidation among journalists who report on issues of national import".