7. THE PRESS COVER-UP OF THE TRAGEDY IN EAST TIMOR
Human rights violations rivaling those in Cambodia have happened in
East Timor with the help of the United States but without the American
In December, 1975, Indonesian military forces invaded East Timor following
a short-lived civil war there. The little-known war of aggression has
continued with the assistance of the United States. The results have
been major violations of the population's human rights and their right
to self determination and the establishment of Indonesian military rule
in East Timor.
Neutral observers have estimated the number of people slaughtered at
50,000 to 100,000 -- almost ten percent of the population. Yet the Western
press has given little coverage to the massive atrocities committed
by the Indonesian forces. The press adheres to the Indonesian-U.S. State
Department version of the situation in East Timor -- that most of the
lives were lost in the civil war prior to the Indonesian intervention.
Other substantiated reports cite the number of dead from the civil war
at between 2,000 and 3,000.
The U.S. government claims to have suspended military aid to Indonesia
from December, 1975, when the invasion started, to June, 1976. However,
military aid during this period was above what the State Department
had originally proposed to Congress and it has continued to increase,
largely concealed from public knowledge.
The United Nations has repeatedly condemned the Indonesian government
for its role in East Timor. Indonesian forces have effectively sealed
off the island and have refused entrance to any neutral observers. Reports
of atrocities, starvation, and death have leaked out from refugees fleeing
an intolerable situation.
The press has not felt compelled to report the possible massacre of
100,000 Timorese at the hands of a U.S. ally using U.S. arms.
The time frame of the alleged atrocities in East Timor is about the
same as that in Cambodia. Why then has the press so effectively underplayed
the situation in East Timor and given massive international publicity
to the Cambodian situation? The author-researcher suggests that the
economic advantages of an "investor's paradise" offered by
good relations with Indonesia explain why the U.S. has been intent on
burying the tragedy in East Timor.
The lack of investigative reporting and media exposure on the tragic
situation in East Timor qualifies this story for nomination as one of
the "best censored" stories of 1979.
Inquiry, Feb. 19, 1979, "East Timor: The Press Cover-up,"
by Noam Chomsky.