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Pacific Media Centre

La’o Hamutuk advocates and researchers with the author, Dr David Robie, in Dili, Timor-Leste. Image: David Robie

David Robie, Pacific Media Centre

Friday, April 1, 2016

La’o Hamutuk (Walking Together in English) is an independent social justice and development com-munication non-government organization established in Timor-Leste in 2000 by Timorese and inter-national 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 neigh-boring 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