Reconciliation in Timor-Leste and the Role of the Media:

The Casa de Produção Audiovisual

East-Timor: How to Build a New Nation in Southeast Asia in the 21st Century?
Edited by Christine Cabasset-Semedo and Frédéric Durand
Carnet de l’Irasec / Occasional Paper n°9 – 2009, May 2009

Henriette Sachse 41

Cabasset_DurandPost-independence Timor-Leste struggles to come to terms with its past, to improve the recent situation and to build up its future at the same time. These are enormous tasks which require a lot of attention from all actors involved: the national government, national institutions, individuals as well as national and international civil society. The overall goal is to build a foundation for lasting peace in the country by learning from the mistakes of the past and by investing time, money and good will in the best possible preparation for the future.

In order to come to terms with its past and to be in line with Transitional Justice mechanisms, Timor-Leste has seen several approaches on the national level: the establishment of the Special Panel in combination with the Serious Crimes Unit, the independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade, e Reconciliação – CAVR) as well as the bilateral Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) with Indonesia. The task of the CAVR was three-fold: first, to establish the truth about the political events and to set up a historical record of the period between 1974 and 1999, second, to facilitate reconciliation at the local level through Community Reconciliation Programmes, and third to produce a final report including recommendations related to the Commission’s tasks42.

Regarding the truth-finding task, it is clear that this was an enormous endeavor, especially considering the time constraints of the CAVR which operated from 2002 to 2005. Individual data was collected as well as seven public hearings organized, the one on the Internal Political Conflict labeled a „landmark in the history of East Timorese political life”43. „The Commission was encouraged by the humility of political leaders who testified at the National Public Hearing on the Internal Political Conflict of 1974-76, and the positive community response to their openness. However more needs to be done to heal the deep hurt from this period and to consolidate the development of a pluralistic and peaceful political life in Timor-Leste.”44

As a follow-up process on the work of the CAVR, an open national debate on the country’s history as part of a broader nation-building process is needed – this is especially true following the outbreak of violence in fall 2006 and the appearance of frictions within the Timorese society. It appears vital to find a common perception of the brutal events of the past (including taking responsibility for past mistakes) by means of dialogue and open discussions in order to tackle current problems. In this regard, the media can play a very important role in facilitating this dialogue, fostering active participation of the public and promoting a pluralistic society.

In this paper I argue that intended outcome programming media can contribute to reconciliation and social reconstruction as well as peace-building in Timor-Leste. Focusing on the example of the Casa de Produção Audiovisual (CPA), an audiovisual production facility in Dili, I argue that intended outcome media projects can be important actors in the process of rebuilding relationships. By focusing on essential aspects of reconciliation and peace-building such as the search for truth and education, the CPA provides information and educational training as well as a forum for open dialogue and public participation.

The paper proceeds in three sections: First, I will explain how I understand the concept of reconciliation and how the media fit into it. In the second section, I will analyze the work and ambitions of the Casa de Produção Audiovisual by describing the two main foci of work of the CPA including their content, objectives and means. Finally, I will summarize my findings.

41 This paper is dedicated to Pater Ruedi Hofmann SJ who suddenly passed away May 28 2008. He set up and was the driving spirit behind the Casa de Producao Audiovisual.
42 CAVR. 2005. Chega!
43 Op. Cit. CAVR. 2005. p. 192.
44 Op. Cit. CAVR. 2005. p.215.

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East-Timor: How to Build a New Nation in Southeast Asia in the 21st Century?
Edited by Christine Cabasset-Semedo and Frédéric Durand
Carnet de l’Irasec / Occasional Paper n°9 – 2009, May 2009

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