33 Years Later, Send the Balibo 5 Home
33 years ago today, five journalists working for Australian TV networks were killed by Indonesian forces in East Timor, their bodies incinerated and interred at a cemetery in Jakarta. Details about the deaths of Gary Cunningham, Brian Peters, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart were shrouded in mystery, but the fact of their deaths has made them a potent symbol of the threats journalists face worldwide. Dart Centre Australasia joins the Prime Minister of Australia and a 2007 coroner's inquest in calling for all parties to respect the wishes of the families of the "Balibo Five" who call for repatriating their relatives' remains.
"Thirty three years is a long time for the families of these journalists to wait to have their wishes respected. Dart Centre Australasia calls on the Rudd Government to act on the recommendations of the inquiry," said Cait McMahon, Managing Director of the regional Centre. "Whilst the deaths of these men will always be painful for their loved ones, having their wishes respected in regard to the repatriation of their bodies will contribute somewhat to the healing process, even this many years on."
It was only last year ago, more than three decades after the fact, that a coroner's inquest established how the journalists were killed; not in the crossfire of battle, as the Indonesian government insisted, but deliberately, by special forces officers, after having surrendered, in order to suppress news of their invasion of Portuguese Timor. The Coalition and Labor parties in Australia committed in 2007 to the repatriation of their bodies, and prosecution is being considered, but so far neither has occurred.
You can read the Dart Centre's interview with Shirley Shackleton, widow of Greg Shackleton, from the 30th anniversary of his death.