American Reporter Media Release | 12 December 1996
HOLLYWOOD – An article written for the Dec. 5, 1995 edition of The American Reporter, the first daily newspaper to originate on the Internet, has won this year's George Munster Award for Freelance Journalism, the most respected award for freelancers in Australia, AR Editor-in-Chief Joe Shea announced today.
The Award is accompanied by a $1,000 prize. The online paper has a small paid circulation but a large pass-along readership.
“Wilson da Silva typifies the best of the international reporting offered to our clients and subscribers by The American Reporter,” Shea said.
“While just one client picked it up from our news service, it was nonetheless the best thing written by a freelancer on the whole continent of Australia that year. We hope other potential clients may soon take notice of achievements like these.”
On Dec. 10, the Australian Human Rights Commission also awarded da Silva a commendation for the story.
The article was on the subject of East Timor, the former Portuguese colony now ruled (under an officially unrecognized claim) by Indonesia.
It told the story of a determined reporter's effort to get some measure of justice for six slain TV and freelance journalists by tracking down Timorese witnesses to the killing of Australian journalist Roger East (executed by Indonesian troops the day after the Indonesian invasion of East Timor on December 7, 1975), who said they were willing to testify to a commission of enquiry established days earlier by then Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.
“While on a visit to East Timor in November 1995, I was told that the witnesses were now living in Australia,” da Silva told The American Reporter. “I had been trying to track them down on my return when Evans announced the inquiry into the death of the five TV journalists in Balibo (East Timor – also by Indonesian troops) and of freelancer Roger East. It was the first interview the witnesses had given, and they eventually testified at the inquiry,” da Silva said.
The award is handed out by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney. There is only one category, which is for best freelance story.
Ironically, the award ceremony was in Sydney at 6pm on Tuesday, December 10 – the same day Correspondent da Silva was be in Oslo covering the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for this year's two Timorese winners, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and José Ramos Horta.
“Considering the mounting costs of this trip [to Oslo],” da Silva noted, “it will come in very handy.”