Timor Leste Media Sustainability Index
About the MSI
IREX designed the MSI to measure the strength and viability of any country’s media sector. The MSI considers all the factors that contribute to a media system—the quality of journalism, effectiveness of management, the legal environment supporting freedom of the press, and more—to arrive at scores on a scale ranging between 0 and 4. These scores represent the strength of the media sector components and can be analyzed over time to chart progress (or regression) within a country. Additionally, countries or regions may be compared to one another. IREX currently conducts the MSI in 80 countries across Europe and Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Africa. The MSI began studying Asian countries in 2008, starting with Timor-Leste.
Download Complete Timor Leste chapter (pdf): 2008
MSI Timor Leste - 2008 Introduction
Overall Country Score: 1.83
Since gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002, Timor Leste has made slow progress toward establishing a fully democratic state. The last several decades have been marked by the country’s struggle for independence first as a colony of Portugal, from which they broke away in 1975, only to be invaded by Indonesia nine days later. Though a referendum in 1999 resulted in an overwhelming majority of Timorese voting for independence from Indonesia, anti-independence Timorese militias (supported by the Indonesian military) began a violent campaign against the independence movement. A month of violence came to an end with the arrival of a multinational peacekeeping force. On May 20, 2002, Timor Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state. In its short history as an independent state, however, Timor Leste has seen other instances of politically motivated violence. Internal tensions led to violence and riots in April 2006, and an attack on the president and prime minister in February 2008.
As Timor Leste’s democracy has faced challenges, media have also struggled. Professional standards are not widely practiced, and many media are not yet sustainable businesses. Many outlets continue to largely rely on donor funding. Despite these shortcomings, many media organizations have achieved some progress. While media remain heavily concentrated in the capital, Dili, many outlets—with the help of non-governmental organizations—have established outposts in the outlying regions.
To be sure, Timor’s media have a long way to go. An enabling legal environment remains a significant challenge as the country’s parliament debates new laws regulating journalism and journalists. Access to news and information is limited not only in the country’s more rural areas, where purchasing a radio or television is far too costly for some, but also in the capital, where poverty is also a major obstacle.
There are, however, bright spots in the country’s development. More media associations have been established and provide occasional training opportunities. Media resource centers have appeared in some remote villages to provide local journalists with Internet connections and a means to file stories from those locales.