By David Rose
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is facing MPs’ demands to help clear up
the mystery surrounding the slaying of two British newsmen 30 years ago.
Reporter Malcolm Rennie and cameraman Brian Peters died in October
1975 when they went to Balibo, East Timor, on assignment for Kerry
Packer’s Australian Channel Nine, to investigate reports that
Indonesian forces were invading the country.
Three newsmen from
the rival Australian Channel Seven, Australians Greg Shackleton and
Tony Stewart, and New Zealander Gary Cunningham, also met their deaths.
At first, it was claimed that Rennie and Peters were caught in a crossfire between rival factions in East Timor’s civil war.
papers since released by the Australian government suggest they came
into contact with the invading force. The documents show the Australian
government knew about the invasion beforehand and the British
government was informed.
Hopes that the truth may finally be
unveiled have been given a boost by the opening in Australia of an
inquest into Peters’ death.
The inquest has been adjourned until later this year and will get underway next year.
Don Foster, Liberal Democrat shadow media minister, is spearheading a
demand for Straw to honour a promise to the relatives two years ago “to
A Commons motion, backed by MPs in all parties –
and covered by Parliamentary privilege – “notes that the Foreign Office
considers that British citizens Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters, who
died at Balibo, East Timor, on 16 October, 1975, were murdered”.
motion accuses the Indonesian authorities of blocking a United Nations
investigation into their deathsand calls for “prompt and effective
Foster told Press Gazette: “Until we get a definite
answer as to how these two newsmen were killed, and who was
responsible, we intend to keep up the pressure. It is unacceptable that
we haven’t had full-scale work by the UK government, working with the
Australian government and the United Nations security forces, to get a