'Balibo' understates cruelty of reporters' deaths: Ramos-Horta | world | Hindustan Times
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'Balibo' understates cruelty of reporters' deaths: Ramos-Horta

A new film about the alleged executions of five journalists by Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1975 fails to depict the true cruelty of the killings, East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta said.

world Updated: Jun 19, 2009 12:13 IST

A new film about the alleged executions of five journalists by Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1975 fails to depict the true cruelty of the killings, East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta said.

The film "Balibo," directed by Robert Connolly and starring Australian actor Anthony Lapaglia, has been shot in Dili and the northern Australian city of Darwin and is due for release later this year.

It dramatises events surrounding the deaths of the five reporters working for Australian television stations in the East Timorese border town of Balibo on October 16, 1975, as Indonesian troops invaded the former Portuguese colony.

Indonesia maintains the men were killed in crossfire but an inquest in Australia last year heard testimony from several East Timorese witnesses who described their killings at the hands of Indonesian forces.

"If anything, the film is sort of an understatement of the cruelty of what happened to the five journalists and to the sixth, Roger East, on December 7," Ramos-Horta told reporters late Thursday.

East went to Timor to investigate the deaths of the so-called "Balibo Five" only to be killed himself.
Ramos-Horta said he had spoken to survivors of the Indonesians' attack on Balibo as well as people who were "with the attacking forces".

"From numerous, numerous interviews I had at the time immediately after their killing in Balibo... (the deaths of the journalists) were in the most cruel form," he said.

He said the murders were "not of the simple execution style with bullets and you die instantly without suffering, without humiliation".

An Australian government lawyer, Mark Tedeschi, told the inquest the journalists had been attempting to surrender to the invading troops, who were headed by Captain Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah, when they were killed in cold blood.

At least three of the journalists were shot on the order of Yosfiah, who joined in the shooting, he said. Yosfiah later became a minister after the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998.

Another journalist was shot separately and the fifth was stabbed to death by officer Christoforus Da Silva, the inquest heard.