Friday, August 7, 2009

End of the Day in Oecusse

Not a soul on this beautiful beach in Oecussi at sunset. Oecussi, one of the 13 districts of Timor-Leste, is separated from the country. It is surrounded by West Timor, Indonesia and the sea. It's a nice place to come and relax. I traveled there with my colleagues to establish a Media House for journalists -- a place where they can access the internet, use computers and take part in trainings. Internet was virtually non-existent in Oecussi until Friday.Rice fields are common in Timor-Leste, but I enjoy photographing them. I spotted this field just 75 yards are so from the beach. It's adjacent to a memorial marking the spot where the Portuguese first landed in 1515 and laid claim to Timor. At the front of the marker are the words: "This is Portugal."

Bloggers Jailed in Azerbaijan

It's been nearly a month since two Azeri bloggers were having dinner in a Baku restaurant with their friends when thugs showed up and started a fight. When the two victims, pro-democracy activists, managed to get away they reported what happened to the police. They are now in jail. One of them, Adnan, was able to get this note out.

State-controlled media, increasingly almost all of the media in Azerbaijan, have made these two men, Adnan and Emin, out to be criminals.

As I was leaving Azerbaijan late last year, the government was beginning to crack down on hard on the media. It kicked Radio Liberty and BBC off the broadcast airwaves. In February, it pulled the plug on an independent online news agency. The news agency is back -- under new pro-government ownership.

The Azeri government continues to jail journalists and uses the state-controlled media to try to destroy their reputations.

Now, the government fears bloggers.

Landing Point

Nearly 500 years ago, on an August day in the year 1515, the Portuguese set foot on Oecusse, what is today an enclave of Timor-Leste. Oecussi is separated from the rest of Timor-Leste -- there are three ways to get here -- take the ferry, fly or drive through West Timor, Indonesia. The photo above shows the monument marking the spot where the Portuguese landed. It's a peaceful place with goats roaming around under the trees -- and along the trench in the photo below.
The Portuguese found Oecussi rich in sandalwood. The Portuguese used trenches like this one to float the wood down to the sea where it was loaded onto ships. The trenches filled with water during high tide.