Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Elections, headlines and fishing jackets
So the people of East Timor have once again gone to the vote. Although it's likely there will be no clear winner in this presidential poll, the real story is perhaps that despite the precarious conditions, voting was peaceful.
One keen ET observer, Rob Wesley Smith reckons the media - and he singles out the ABC - have been obsessed with cheap headlines suggesting violence is the order of the day. This didn't eventuate, so he has written his own instructive sample of how a short radio news report should be written:
"Despite many fears and street gang violence over the last year, the election period has been remarkably violence free, save for some small incidents of rival political factions throwing stones. These incidents and suggested intimidation at times is regrettable, but under the existing circumstances of East Timor's history, gross poverty, gross lack of education and literacy, generalised hunger, lack of media in remote areas, and a short official electioneering period during the end of the Wet season when remote access is difficult, most seasoned observers have been pleased and optimistic of a generally free and fair election today Monday."
Meanwhile another keen observer Dili-gence has this pithy insight into the election scene in East Timor's capital:
"Dili is crawling with international election monitors (ie scrutineers, observers), many wearing fishing jackets. The award for the most stylish fishing jacket goes to the EU team, followed by Japan and the UNDP jacket in last place."
Monitoring elections in East Timor has a rugged history. The photo (at left) shows former Australian deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer and the author, preparing for a 'live' ABC TV news interview on the day of East Timor's independence vote in August 1999. Tim was leading Australia's election monitoring team, and he was fuming. He had just visited a polling station in the volatile town of Liquisa, only to witness an Australian 60 minutes TV crew asking would-be voters (including militiamen) how they were going to vote. The incident nearly caused a riot. You can read about this day - and the tumultuous days that followed - in my book Running Amok.