Staff at Australia’s Fairfax Media have raised $30,000 for an East Timorese newspaper and set a new target of $100,000 for the next year.

Since early last year, the staff at Fairfax Media – the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and a host of other newspapers and websites – have been donating through their pay to Tempo Semanal.

Since his return from East Timor this year, Major Michael Stone has been giving lectures and talks explaining that a strong national media voice is crucial for the country's democracy. "Peace has no chance without truth," Major Stone says. "Without a voice of truth, evil prevails and people use information as a weapon." 

Major Stone, an Australian Army officer, has travelled all over East Timor as a peacekeeper. Virtually no independent media reaches the villages, leaving people with few alternatives to propaganda, he says. 

An exception is Tempo Semanal, a weekly national newspaper run by the East Timorese journalist Jose Belo. The paper has been distributing to the village level since October last year. Fairfax staff have paid for computers, motor bikes, cameras, training, wages and a subscription to 300 copies of the paper for distribution to the districts.

The overseas aid arm of the Australian Council of Trade Unions – Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA – has delivered the help. The amount raised so far includes the company's matched donations of $10,000. Fairfax Media has committed to match up to the same amount this financial year.

Now, Fairfax staff want to expand the project to lift Tempo Semanal's professional standards and consolidate its presence as an information source in East Timor.

I have seen many times that controlling information can be far more deadly and coercive than a firearm," Major Stone says. "Tempo Semanal is a national newspaper established by a group of courageous Timorese who want to spread unity and peace in their country."

Tax deductible donations to the Tempo Semanal program can be made on the Make a Donation page at the Union Aid Abroad website, Select the drop-down choice of "Global Justice Program – East Timor: Newspaper Diario Tempo" for either a regular or one-off donation. The direct link is

A five-minute video about Diario Tempo, the paper from which Tempo Semanal grew, can be seen at, after a short advertisement.

Jock Cheetham


Fighting for a strong, free media

Staff work at Diario Tempo newspaper, which was a daily newspaper in Dili, East Timor, until it folded in 2006. Jose Belo, above right, now runs Tempo Semanal, a  national weekly paper.

one world – east timor media


In April 2005, Jose Belo launched what became a 16-page tabloid daily newspaper in Dili, called Diario Tempo. From the early the days, the paper struggled to meet deadlines, partly because of a shortage of equipment. The newspaper published in Tetum, with an English page and some Indonesian pages, too.

The paper's tiny office contained four computers, including two recycled from the tip for reporters. The paper requested help with basic equipment from a visiting Sydney Morning Herald journalist.

Diario Tempo challenged power in true journalistic fashion, as shown by its relentless effort to expose corruption with stories about the prosecutor-general's staff. The daily paper folded in early 2006, but Tempo Semanal emerged as a weekly to continue the work that Diario Tempo started.


A five-minute film on the daily newspaper, Diario Tempo, operating in July 2005, has been posted on (after a short ad).

At the time, during a visit to Diario Tempo's office, Belo said of Fairfax: "We really need your support." When that help started arriving, Belo wrote thanking Fairfax again, saying: "Our hope is very much with you."

Jock Cheetham

October 2007


Jose Belo has not always run a newspaper. For years during the occupation, he fought with the resistance against the Indonesian military.
The journalist John Martinkus describes some of Belo's experiences: "As a young boy he had fled to the mountains when the Indonesians invaded [in 1975]. In 1978 he was captured ... During the next 17 years, Jose was arrested by the Indonesian authorities seven times and jailed for a total of nine years. Each time, he was beaten and tortured.

"When he was arrested at a demonstration at Dili University in 1995, three Australians witnessed the beating he received. 'They were beating him so hard the police truck was rocking wildly, like a washing machine,' one of them said ... That time he was not given food or water for four days. His arms and legs were bound and he was hung upside down overnight. He was then beaten severely with truncheons, cigarettes were extinguished on his chest and arms, and electric shocks were administered to his genitals."

Now, in the free East Timor that Belo dreamed of in jail, his newspaper works to keep the Government honest.


The Prime Minister of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, thanked Fairfax for the project, which he supports. He said in an interview in 2005, when he was President: "We need not only equipment, but intensive courses. We feel the lack of crediting of our journalists. If you can bring training, then very good."

"We don't have economic journalists, or those to analyse the social side." This project fits with Mr Gusmao's stated aim of prioritising the development of small to medium-sized enterprises


An independent weekly newspaper has arisen from the ashes of last year’s turmoil in East Timor. Tempo Semanal's founder, Jose Belo, has been a TV and print journalist since independence.

Belo says the team is distributing at least one copy to most villages in the country, thus reaching all districts and sub-districts around the country.


Much of the paper is published in Tetum, East Timor's lingua franca. Some pages are also published in Indonesian, which is widely spoken and read, and in English.

Before Tempo Semanal began publishing in October 2006, little news and information reached beyond the district capitals. The information that filtered through was from Indonesian and even Australian radio.

Tempo Semanal (Weekly Times) is Timor Leste's first truly national newspaper. Jose Belo, who is a veteran of the resistance, says the paper intends to keep its independence, and has also refused offers of "donations" of up to $US10,000 from most of the political parties.

Belo has established a reputation as a hard-hitting journalist who is not afraid of the Government, or vested interests. He intends to publish and keep publishing articles critical of the Government, its agencies and ministers, when necessary.


Journalists and other staff at Fairfax Media donate through their pay to the development program, which is focused on Tempo Semanal, but is branching out to media training for other journalists in East Timor.

The program's assistance includes a subscription to 300 copies of the paper each week, which are then distributed to districts around East Timor. This involvement means the paper and its information reach the wider population outside Dili, and also provides revenue for the paper to run its operations.


The program is also paying the staff of 12 a basic allowance of $US10 a week. The program sent two digital still cameras late in 2006, two more in mid-2007, and the Timor Leste Photographers Association delivered one week's training in February 2007.

The paper also has two production computers bought by the program. In January 2007, the program bought two small motorbikes for journalist's travel to the districts to source stories and distribute the newspaper.


The Sydney Morning Herald journalist Paul McGeough said in reference to this project: "If people in post-conflict societies can set up newspapers that are independent and not locked in with local political parties or interests, it's a huge asset ... To get openness, to get newspapers working as they have to work to play their part in a democracy, they need to be funded - they need money, they need resources, they need guidance, they need training."