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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK

East Timor on the Web

By Sherie Ryder of the BBC World Service East Asia Today programme

East Timor
In the years following Indonesia's takeover of East Timor in 1975 a proliferation of groups has emerged to campaign against Indonesian rule. The arrival of the Internet has made it much easier for them to make their voices heard around the world.

And since the downfall of former president Suharto in May 1998, there has been a significant loosening up of debate on the future for Indonesia and for East Timor.

His successor, President Habibie has promised democratic revolution in Indonesia. New political parties have since been formed in preparation for the elections in June this year, and the East Timorese have been offered a direct vote on whether they would like autonomy or complete independence.

The Republic of Indonesia Foreign Ministry site in English and Indonesian provides an extensive list of links to Indonesian Government institutions, mostly in Indonesian.

The National Commission on Human Rights gives the government line on human rights issues.

The United Nations has been closely involved in trying to bring about an acceptable consensus on East Timor's future and is expected to play an important role in a transition period if and when the territory is given its independence.


Over the past few years there has been an upsurge of new East Timor sites on the Internet, in particular, those of human rights groups campaigning from the West:

  • East Timor International Support Centre provides information about how the centre operates, a collection of news reports from different sources around the world and biographies of prominent East Timorese campaigners such as Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo.

  • East Timor Human Rights Centre includes reports on human rights violations in East Timor, and information on its Urgent Action Network.

  • Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) , has regular news updates, a diary of upcoming events and hosts Indonesia's PRD, the People's Democratic Party Website. It also has a pool of publications and videos on the subject. This site is a useful source for links and contacts around the world.

  • TimorNet from the University of Coimbra, Portugal has two main areas incorporating a history of the territory and an extensive information resource guide.

  • TAPOL is an Indonesian human rights campaign group based in the UK, and the site contains reports and press releases written by the Tapol team.

  • The National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) comes via the Australian domain and has extensive information on Xanana Gusmao, leader of the East Timorese resistance movement. It includes reports on his trial, his meeting with Nelson Mandela, and a variety of interviews, letters and speeches.

    'Virtual country'

    East Timorese until recently had no domain on the Internet of their own. Anyone wishing to go online had to use Indonesia's domain (.id) or that of another country.

    But just over a year ago, the 1996 Nobel Prize winners, Jose Ramos Horta , Bishop Belo initiated, along with Internet service provider Connect-Ireland an East Timorese Internet domain (.tp) - giving East Timor a presence as a 'virtual country' on the Net.

    The site was soon forced to shut down when a highly organised attack, for which the Indonesian government was blamed, brought down the East Timor virtual country domain.

    Despite these problems, the site East Timor World under the wing of the Free East Timor site is up and running and gives an extensive range of links to East Timorese sources on the Internet.

    Australia and Portugal

    The Australian government has been urged by the UN to play a key role in ensuring a peaceful independence vote in East Timor later this year. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade site has the transcript of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's speech following his visit to Indonesia and Portugal in February this year. And the site of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta contains recent press releases on the Timor issue.

    The Portuguese Ministry for Foreign Affairs site has information on the role of Portugal, the former colonial power.

    Human Rights

    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International produce extensive reports and briefings on the human rights situation in Indonesia and East Timor.

    Opposition parties

    Indonesia's main opposition parties have their own positions on East Timor. Amien Rais, leader of the opposition National Mandate Party has said independence should be put to the people of East Timor in a referendum. The head of the PDI, or Democratic Party, Megawati Sukarnoputri has rejected independence for the territory.

    News coverage

    Antara is Indonesia's official news agency, covering a wide range of topics from national to international news to finance. Registration is required, but the site is free.

    Inside Indonesia published by the Indonesian Resources and Information Programme (IRIP), has its own team of writers compiling commentary and analysis on news from Indonesia and East Timor. The site includes translations of interviews (for example with Indonesian Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas) featured in Portuguese newspapers.

    For coverage from the Indonesian press, there are a number of newspapers online, including Kompas online and Indonesia Daily News .

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    In this section

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    US warns Indonesian army

    The lost world of the Timor rebels

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    Shadowy militias of East Timor

    Analysis: New dawn for Timor?

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    East Timor on the Web

    East Timor: The view from Portugal

    Eyewitness: The trials of East Timor

    Eyewitness: Timor's day of reckoning

    Analysis: Jakarta's long-term concerns