La’o Hamutuk (Walking Together in English) is an independent social justice and development communication non-government organization established in Timor-Leste in 2000 by Timorese and international human rights activists and campaigners involved in the country’s struggle for independence. Over the past 15 years, the NGO has monitored, analyzed, and reported on development processes in Timor-Leste and has forged a reputation for the quality of its communication for social change. La’o Hamutuk facilitates communication between grassroots people in the country and its elected leaders and decision-makers, and also establishes solidarity links with communities in other countries to explore alternative and independent development models. This author worked on a voluntary basis with La’o Hamutuk in November-December 2013 on a collaborative journalism education project to test notions of critical development journalism, peace journalism, and human rights journalism (HRJ) explored in his book published in 2014, Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Paciﬁc. This paper explores a case study on communication for change strategies deployed by La’o Hamutuk on speciﬁc issues including the maritime Timor Gap dispute with neighboring Australia and the future of the country’s oil and gas reserves; the State budget and Tasi Mane project on the underdeveloped south coast; unresolved human rights cases; food sovereignty and land rights; and a controversial media law regarded as a threat to freedom of speech and information. The paper examines these issues in the context of notions of both HRJ and collaborative citizen journalism.
Keywords: citizen journalism, development communication, media censorship, media freedom, media mobilization, social change
Robie, David (2016). La'o Hamutuk and Timor-Leste's development challenges: a case study in human rights and collaborative journalism. Media Asia, v43, March 2016. Research paper available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01296612.2016.1142247