Global Freedom of Expression

The Constitutionality of Timor-Leste’s Decree No. 10/III (Media Law)

In Progress Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    January 1, 2015
  • Outcome
    Law or Action Overturned or Deemed Unconstitutional
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Timor-Leste, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Constitutional Court
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law, Civil Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Licensing / Media Regulation, Press Freedom
  • Tags
    Media Diversity, Media Pluralism

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Court of Appeal of Timor-Leste rejected the media law passed by the National Parliament as unconstitutional for the second time.


The National Parliament of Timor-Leste, or East Timor, approved Decree no. 10/III on Media Law (the media law) in May 2014. The law consists of 54 articles addressing the right to information, and the freedom of speech and expression of journalists and media organizations. On July 14, 2014, the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak, submitted Decree no. 10/III to the Court of Appeal, requesting a review of constitutionality, pursuant to articles 149 and 164 of the Constitution.

The Court of Appeal found parts of the media law unconstitutional in September 2014. The National Parliament rejected the first decision by the Court of Appeal. The National Parliament disrupted the Court’s operations between the two decisions.

Decision Overview

In September 2014, the Court of Appeal declared Articles 20,  24 (regarding foreign capital), and 40 (regarding media fines), of the media law to be unconstitutional. Article 20 outlines seven duties of a journalist, including but not limited to, “contribut[ing] to a free and democratic society, fighting any restriction on the freedom of expression, freedom of the press or any other form of restriction on the citizens’ right to information; and contribut[ing] to the development of society by informing citizens in an educational, honest and responsible way, in order to promote the creation of an enlightened public opinion.” Any violation of Article 20 could result in a fine ranging from US$500 to US$1500.00.

In December, the Court of Appeal again found portions of the media law unconstitutional.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

The media law is restrictive of journalists and journalism, and impedes their ability to report on or in Timor-Leste. The law was criticized by human rights and media organizations.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Timor-Leste, Decree No. 10/III
  • Timor-Leste, Const. art. 41

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The Court of Appeal is the country’s highest court. Its decisions are binding precedent on lower courts.

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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