A damning piece by Australian journalist Mark Dodd suggesting that
East Timor is on the brink of civil war and is powerless to stop
systemic corruption, has sparked a highly personal attack
from the country’s minister for foreign affairs, Jose Ramos-Horta.

Dodd’s 26 July piece
cited a “brutal and frank” World Bank report and warned of a government
out of touch with its people that threatened to squander the money from
the gas field development in the Timor Sea. Late last week it was
greeted with this angry response from Ramos-Horta when he spoke
to reporters last week at an ASEAN regional forum.

“It is obvious that Mr Mark Dodd
is pursuing a hate campaign against East Timor
and against our prime minister. He is a little-known freelancer who struggles
to earn a few dollars here and there,” said Ramos-Horta. He went on to claim that Dodd is racist and was rejected by the SMH because it’s too good a publication to print his “gutter journalism.”

“Mr Mark Dodd is essentially a
bad writer, a dishonest journalist who makes up stories, cooks up
quotes from
unnamed sources, and has a very patronising, colonial mentality towards
Timor and in fact towards indigenous Australians and people of dark
skin in Asia and South Pacific, Ramos-Horta says. “Only a Murdoch paper prints his sloppy writing.”

Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell told Crikey this
morning that he expected Dodd to take legal action over the spray.
We’ve been unable to get on to Dodd this morning, but judging by Horta’s
press release it looks as though he could have a strong case.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey