Skip to main content

Deaths of Australian Journalists in East Timor

News, speeches and media

Media Release




The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade deeply
regrets the death of Australian journalists during the
Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 but completely
rejects suggestions in today's Sydney Morning Herald of a

The deaths have been the subject of intensive scrutiny
during the years since 1975. Much has been written and
released at various points since then.

In this regard, it is essential to note that the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade gave Mr Tom Sherman
QC wholly unfettered access to all material held by the
Government to facilitate his Report into the circumstances
of the journalists' deaths.

The Government not only made available all the material
in its possession, but also accorded Mr Sherman absolute
independence in coming to his findings. Officers of DFAT
made every effort to ensure Mr Sherman had total and
unlimited access to all material. In these circumstances,
the suggestion of a departmental cover-up is entirely

A key allegation in the Sydney Morning Herald today is
the proposition that the Government had received
-information that Indonesian forces were going to attack in
the Balibo area, that it knew Australian journalists were in
that area, and that it failed to provide adequate

The Sherman Report addressed this issue directly. It
concluded, at paragraph 5.66 " There is ample evidence that
the Balibo five were warned of the dangers facing them in
the border area."

It is reported today that the Australian Chapter of the
International Commission of Jurists has called for a "Strong
protest to the Indonesian government on behalf of all right
thinking Australians at the ... killings". The ICJ has also
reportedly called for a further inquiry.

The Australian Government has frequently made its views
known to the Indonesian Government about the deaths of the
five journalists. And as the Minister for Foreign Affairs
said at the time of the release of the Sherman Report, that
Report was as thorough and conclusive an investigation as
was possible outside Indonesia and that any further
investigation was most unlikely to produce additional

At all times the Department has been, as it continues to
be, ready to receive information from any person who has
credible new evidence which is relevant to this matter.

Media Inquiries:

Tony Melville (02) 62611555

Last Updated: 19 September 2014
Back to top