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East Timor Newspaper To Reappear

May 1, 1999

DILI, Indonesia (AP) _ Two weeks after its office was ransacked by anti-independence militiamen, leaving East Timorese with no source of news, the Suara Timor Timur daily plans to return to newsstands next week.

Otelio Ote, the deputy editor in chief, promised that the paper would be more objective.

``We will try to present more balanced reporting. In the past we were perceived to favor one interest and not fairly represent the other,″ Ote said. He did not elaborate.

Anti-independence militiamen ransacked the paper’s office on April 17, saying it presented one-sided reports of problems in East Timor.

Otelio said the damage has been repaired, and an editorial meeting to decide the contents of Monday’s paper was held today.

The paper will contain eight pages and remain at its previous circulation of 6,000.

Violence has escalated in the half-island territory since January, when the Indonesian government reversed a longstanding policy on East Timor.

It said it would consider letting the former Portuguese colony go if the territory’s 800,000 people rejected an offer of limited self-rule. A U.N. ballot is set for August.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, unleashing human rights abuses and separatist rebel fighting.

The press in East Timor and the rest of Indonesia has been given much more latitude since the May 1998 ouster of authoritarian President Suharto, who often shut down or muzzled critical news media. Indonesia is moving toward democracy under his successor, President B.J. Habibie.

Before Suharto quit, reporters at Suara Timor Timur were occasionally threatened and thugs ransacked the office, angry with the paper’s perceived separatist slant.

Lately, local reporters have increasingly been threatened by anti-independence groups. Some have stopped reporting.

Suara Timor Timur is the only remaining local news publication in East Timor. Novas, a paper with 2,500 subscribers, was recently closed down for lack of cash.

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