New Internationalist

Balibo Five case reopened

November 2009

Thirty-four years on, the notorious case of the ‘Balibo Five’ is to be reopened by the Australian Federal Police.

In October 1975, five journalists – two from Australia, two from Britain and one from New Zealand/Aotearoa – were killed in the village of Balibo, while they were covering Indonesia’s advance into Timor-Leste. The official version of events by both the Australian and Indonesian Governments at the time stated that the journalists were accidentally killed in crossfire. But evidence unearthed by Australia’s deputy state coroner Dorelle Pinch in 2007 suggested that the killings were deliberately orchestrated, and that they constitute a war crime.

Indonesian officials have refused to co-operate in the investigation and its Government has warned that the enquiry may damage the country’s relations with Australia. The Indonesian military are also putting pressure on the country’s censors to ban a new Australian film – Balibo – to prevent it being screened at the next Jakarta International Film Festival. The film, directed by Robert Connolly, shows the journalists being killed by Indonesian forces.

This column was published in the November 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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