Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks at AJTL’s Media Literacy Workshop

My respects to:

  • President of AJTL, Zevonia Viera
  • President of Press Council, Virgilio da Silva Guterres
  • Secretary General of AJTL, Alberico da Costa Junior
  • Journalists and students in this workshop

Hello everyone and thank you for organizing this very important workshop on strengthening digital media to fight disinformation in Timor-Leste.

I congratulate these 15 students taking part in this workshop. Furthermore, I thank the work of Alberico da Junior and his team in organizing this training.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to support the development of Timor-Leste’s journalists through supporting such workshop on the importance of professionalism and accuracy in journalism and media. However, it’s also important to recognize freedom of expression in free society and accuracy in reporting.

In Timor-Leste and the United States and all democratic societies, journalists play an essential role.

Good journalism gives people the information they need to make good decisions and hold their leaders accountable—which means they can work more effectively for justice and human rights, and be better represented by their government.

This is why free, independent journalism is a pillar of democracy, and why the United States is proud to support journalists around the world.

Here in Timor-Leste we have seen a profound respect for all the journalists who told your story and alerted the world to Timor-Leste’s courage and suffering during the Resistance.

The U.S. Embassy strives to honor and emulate those journalists’ commitment to this country. In that spirit, we support journalism in Timor-Leste through a variety of journalism training programs such as this one today.

We are proud to provide funding to the Timor-Leste Journalism Association to support this program. This is part of the United States’ effort to counter disinformation and support fact-based investigative journalism around the world.

Next year we will continue this work through a cooperation with AJTL to create a Media Literacy “Tech Camp” which will bring international experts to Timor-Leste to work with local journalists creating solutions to the problem of false information spreading online.

Several members of AJTL and the Press Council have taken part in our exchange programs and I’m very excited to see this continue cooperation.

We also support the development of English journalism skills through a scholarship in honor of Marie Colvin, the American reporter who remained in Timor-Leste in 1999 during an extremely dangerous time and got the message out to the international community.

Journalism and our information environment has changed very much since Marie Colvin was in Timor-Leste. Digital and social media are great tools for freely sharing information. But we have all seen how quickly incorrect information can now spread and create conflict in our communities.

The ability to seek and report trustworthy and fact-based journalism is more important than ever. We need strong journalists who can provide the public with accurate information and investigate issues that are important to the Timorese public.

I encourage you all to work diligently to find the truth through careful analysis and investigative reporting. A well-functioning democracy is dependent on your work in this regard and on training programs such as this.

Thank you