Memorials for Balibo Five journalists on 40th anniversary of deaths

Memorials for Balibo Five journalists on 40th anniversary of deaths

Six Australian journalists murdered by Indonesian troops during the invasion of East Timor are being memorialised today, on the fortieth anniversary of their deaths.

The men known as the Balibo five – Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart from Channel Nine, and Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters from Channel Seven – were killed after they witnessed an Indonesian incursion in the town of Balibo, on October 16, 1975.

A sixth man, Roger East, a freelance journalist, was executed in Dili two months later.

No one has ever been prosecuted over the deaths.

A dawn service has taken place this morning  at the War Correspondents’ Memorial in Canberra, with another to be held in Melbourne at St Kilda Botanical Gardens at 3pm.

Greg Shackleton’s wife, Sherley, travelled from her home in Melbourne to speak at this morning’s service in Canberra.

“They were there [Balibo] to break the silence but they were silenced,” Ms Shackleton said.

“These men were butchered as if they were cattle and they were just doing their job.”

The son of Gary Cunningham, John Milkins, is using the anniversary to call on the Australian Federal Police to re-open its war crimes investigation into the killings.

The AFP closed the case last year, but Mr Milkins says the reason behind this decision has never really been explained to the public.

“We don’t think that story’s finished. I think perhaps the Government would like the book to be completely closed but I think there are many chapters still to write, there are many unknowns,” he said.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has used the anniversary to announce it will establish a permanent scholarship to develop East Timorese journalists — the Balibo Five-Roger East scholarship.

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Libby Dreyer
Libby Dreyer 1729 posts

Libby has worked as a Senior Journalist at National Radio News since February 2011. She graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Canberra in December 2010.

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