TV election coverage

It is pretty rare for me to watch the local TVTL television broadcasts. For one, reception is pretty bad through our rabbit ears but usually, it is all fairly turgid stuff.

But the word was that they would be doing a big coverage of the elections last night. Now that we are in the last days, it was interesting to see just how they handled it.

Although I didn’t do a count, it looked like they gave all 14 parties a 2 minute slot. All of it was roaming cameras at political rallies and meetings with the party leaders given the opportunity to state their case. Not that I understood what they were saying through the hiss (refer rabbit ears above), it seemed a pretty fair and reasonable coverage for all of the parties.

It may not have been CNN but it seemed to pass the equity test.

Reference web site for Timor-Leste

If you didn’t already know, there is a new (to me) web site called the “East Timor Directory”.  I wish someone had done this about 2 years ago.

You never know.  You might find something you didn’t know about in one of the following categories :

  • Art & Culture
  • Blogs
  • Business & Economy
  • Education & Research
  • Friends of East Timor
  • General Information
  • Government
  • History
  • Humanitarian & Development
  • International Organisations
  • Language
  • Law & Justice
  • Military
  • Other
  • Politics

Go here :

If you think there is a worthy site to add, just ask them to add it.

Access to media in TL

In the western world, we are accustomed to regular surveys telling us (apparently) what we like to eat, drink, wear, watch, visit, etc. etc.  I guess some people are guided by the results although my reaction to endless surveys is to do something completely different.  Mainstream is so pedestrian.

The recent presidential elections became the ultimate survey on what people were thinking.  In the absence of competing pollsters, no-one was quite sure what the results would be.

A recent survey by Fondation Hirondelle suggests that even without pollsters, this information gap is not entirely filled by traditional media either.

Some of the survey conclusions (from a sample of over 1200) were :

  • 35% listen to radio on a weekly basis
  • 47% have a radio at home
  • 43% had good radio reception
  • 20% has a TV
  • 19% watch TV on a daily basis (79% in Dili)
  • 40% watch TV away from their own home
  • 10% have a mobile phone
  • 1% have a PC at home
  • 0.5% have a PC at home with internet access
  • 2% use internet on a weekly basis from internet cafes
  • 4% use internet on a weekly basis (so I presume the other 2% is from the workplace)

So you will not see targeted internet advertising aimed at the Timorese on this blog.

Keeping software up-to-date – the Dili way

Once a month, Microsoft brings out their security updates which from a user point of view is a bit more manageable than the old random release of these updates. Some of these monthly updates (for Windows XP) run to over 40Mbytes but the typical size of late has been around the 10 to 20Mbyte mark.

Now it is just not possible to handle this sort of download over a modem connection unless you possess infinite patience. And if you add in the almost daily anti-virus software updates (and the large updates once every couple of months), you can get blown away pretty quickly. I try to keep up but this will usually involve a visit to an internet cafe to get this stuff.

That may seem OK but the majority of internet cafes here proudly advertise “fast broadband” when they only have 128kbps connections. Some have 256kbps. If you get in early, you can get most of that bandwidth to yourself and do your stuff. But heaven help you if a large group of other users file in.

I recall one time I went into a “cafe” (no coffee in sight) to do my updates and my humble task ground the bandwidth right down such that the owner came out to find out who was downloading music or images. “Not me”, I said. I killed the task, did a bit of harmless surfing and finished the job off at another “cafe”.

On another occasion, I thought it wise to ask the manager if I could do my updates and I was told “no, try somewhere else”. Honest but obviously a strategic mistake.

I have been reading about Google’s new online applications (calendar, word processing, spreadsheet etc.) and just how useful they are. And the pressure this is putting on Microsoft. On the one hand, you never have to worry about updates again but on the other, you may never have enough bandwidth to make the experience worth it here. And Youtube ? What’s that ?

Its just too expensive here and the real broadband world is just a dream.  The 15 year monopoly by Timor Telecom is just not doing it for me.

Lao Hamutuk is back

The Lao Hamutuk (Walking Together) journal is back after a break of 12 months. You can download the latest version (Vol. 8 No. 1) from :

There is quite a detailed report on the Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund and also a bit of a spray for the proposed government pension plan.

And the printed form is available at Lita Supermarket and probably a few other places around town.

Press freedom a la

Reporters Without Borders (AKA Reporters sans frontiere) at have published their 2006 Annual Report on press freedom around the world.

As the TL report is short, I will reprint it here (and hope I don’t get my freedom to re-publish it infringed)

East-Timor – Annual report 2007

Riots and political tension did not make the job of the press any easier. Several publications were threatened by supporters or opponents of the former prime minister, Mari Alkatiri. Despite this violence, the young country continues to enjoy a favourable atmosphere for press freedom.

A military rebellion against the government triggered a serious deterioration in working conditions for journalists from May 2006. Several publications had to work in secret for fear of reprisals. The Timor Post and Suara Timor Lorosae had to halt publication for several days under pressure from supporters of Mari Alkatiri, who was forced to resign at the end of June. The former head of government had openly criticised and called for a boycott of independent media like Suara Timor Lorosae.

Journalists were physically attacked on several occasions. On 10 June, an Associated Press reporter was manhandled and briefly detained by Australian peace-keeping soldiers. On 12 June, a gang of youths stoned journalists from the Timor Post. Political militants ransacked the offices of the leading radio and television channel TVTL in Dili on 29 June demanding the suspension of news programmes. Finally, on 9 November an Agence France-Presse correspondent was hit in the face by a stone thrown by a demonstrator.

As for me, I am not press and apart from a couple of ranters last year accusing me of being a patsy for the Australian presence here, I have received no heavying. In the interests of open-ness, yes I did delete their rants. I am the author, this is my blog, no-one pays me to do this – so there !

Actually I do not have a lot of sympathy for some reporters who were here in May/June/July last year. They only came to see blood, fire and rampaging and then were gone. They were racing around trying to go anywhere to see some of this. When I saw one TV reporter doing a story while walking amongst a group of running youths, I can easily see how a security force would get cheesed off with this.

Oops, there goes the media career.

The need for information

It appears that this week has seen an increase in gang related violence, particularly in the Bairo Pite area. The official figure for the number of dead is 5 since Thursday last week. I know that a large number of injuries have also been treated. When things are quiet, there is very little helicopter activity. A tell-tale sign of trouble is helicopters circling over trouble spots.

This helicopter activity has been noticeable over the last few days, but I don’t know of any particular incidents. I had heard that about 100 Timorese attempted to get into the OZ military controlled heliport area, seeking a safe place but I don’t know much more than that.

I had heard there was fighting near the tennis courts in Bebonuk yesterday, but again I don’t know any detail. A UN policeman told me there is stuff going on all of the time. He commented about the stupid expats who move around as if nothing is happening. Well, when I look at the UN Security Briefings, I learn next to nothing. How else is one to find out but rely on word of mouth.

On a related matter, while travelling out east, something came to my attention that I had not really ever considered before, but once it got onto my radar screen, I deemed it worthy to note. But outside of Dili, there is no re-broadcasting of Dili radio or television. And no ready access to Dili’s newspapers. Each of the districts appears to have a RTTL (Radio Television Timor Leste) broadcasting antennae (and a Timor Telecom microwave antennae) but the RTTL antennae and associated broadcasting equipment has not been functioning for a couple of years (I recall someone said 3 or 4 years). Many districts have some form of local community radio but I don’t know to what extent it fills up the information vacuum.

What you do see is a smattering of IndoVision satellite dishes. Even in some pretty remote places, you might see this, even if electricity is available for only 3 hours a day. So you can be right up to date with what is happening in the world but be a bit behind on what is really happening here … like a forthcoming election.

Other blogs

I originally started “Dili-gence” after an exhaustive and mostly futile search for blogs on Dili that might tell me what to expect, what to bring etc. That was early 2005. Apart from Nick Hobgood’s dive site and fantastic underwater photography, there wasn’t anything of note that I found. – Timor-Leste’s Underwater Wonderland” by Nick Hobgood

A result of the crisis period (let’s say that is May to July), has been an influx of foreign military/police and a resurgence in the foreign aid and foreign volunteer presence. I have found myself reading other blogs more than feeling the need to write much myself.

tumbleweed in timor lorosae” has been around since mid-2005. She is an aid worker who has the odd tale to tell. “Dili-Dallying (2 years in Timor-Leste” has also been around since mid-2005. Both of these have been quiet of late but may be on holidays.
“Nomad Lachy” appeared in May 2006 and I was reading this only last week but it is no longer there at blogspot. She was running the free Pilates classes at Temptations and is into diving. I believe she moved the site somewhere else.

Dutchpickle” provides small picture postcard views of things he/she has encountered. I am going to take a guess “he” is a freelance photographer.

Beyond Teresa” from Lisbon writes mostly in English on whatever takes her fancy. She has some interesting insights into events that paint a little more of the picture of what it is like living here.

On the more serious side, there is the all encompassing academically oriented “re-publish everything you can find about Timor on the internet” site called “east-timor-studies“. Another usually serious blog is “Living Timorously” which sometimes borders on irreverent but always comes up with a different angle on something.

Adventures with flipflops” tells regular tales of the life of a water and sanitation engineer working for an aid agency. Normally, water and sanitation engineers would extract a collective groan but this guy is out amongst it digging wells and basically getting some decent services in place for IDP camps that are looking at a pretty wet future once the wet season takes hold. This guy usually works out of central Dili and that makes it different.

A new one that “east-timor-studies” put me onto is “Rai Ketak“. This is from a Timorese who left here in 2003 and as a result of a 10 week visit in 2006, decided to re-publish earlier writings plus impressions from his recent visit. I still have a fair bit of reading to catch up on with this one. Written in a very personal style (warts and all), it is a valuable contribution for us non-fluent Tetum or Portuguese speakers.

Speaking of Portuguese speakers, one blog which publishes a lot in Portuguese but some English is the “Timor Online – Em directo de Timor-Leste” blog. It re-publishes a lot of Prime Minister’s office press releases, Fretilin party statements, UNMIT press releases, UNMIT security updates and other press articles. It seems to salt a fair bit of political comment on top of all this and I understand the commentary is largely written by Fretilin party supporters.

There will be more (and the non-English ones) and some obvious one that I forgot.

Where am I ?

I asked myself this question last weekend after agreeing to move on from a bar to go to a friend’s place for gin and tonics. And when the tonic ran out, agreeing to replace it with vodka AND thinking it was a good idea.

But I am a map sort of guy and when I arrived, I was frustrated by the lack of a good up-to-date map of Dili and key locations. Whenever a new location appears on the scene, its always “its 200 metres west of such and such across from the so and so”. And in reality, it is south-west and 400 metres.

I always like to know where I am (last Saturday excluded) so I have chipped away at working on a landmark locator using Google Earth. I am publishing it for the benefit of the geographically challenged and newbies fresh off the boat. (I’d still like to say it is my baby, so don’t rip it off and call it your own.)

You will find it in my “Other Stuff” section at the top of dili-gence as “Dili via Google Earth” or by going here which are really the same place. I am happy to receive any comments and additions and I will keep it up-to-date. Enjoy … and no jokes about my personal hobbies.

To all my friends in Beijing

This is an open letter to all of my friends in Beijing who call me on my mobile phone. In reality, it is to anyone from outside TL who calls me on my mobile phone. If I don’t answer it, then the recorded number on my mobile is a Beijing number.

I don’t know if this applies to international calls from everywhere but nevertheless, returning a call to that Beijing number is futile. Don’t ask me how it works but it would appear that international calls (from OZ, I assume) are routed through Beijing via some internet mechanism.

So I am really not being rude in not responding. I just don’t know who called. But it could be worse, Kiwis can not call home from a mobile here, presumably because there is no agreement between the respective phone companies. Whereas I can call and text quite freely from mobile to anywhere in OZ.