Max Stahl, who went from Blue Peter presenter to award-winning director and East Timorese national hero after his footage brought global attention to a massacre there, is dead.
He was known as Christopher Wenner when he co-hosted the BBC children’s program from 1978 to 1980.
Like Max Stahl, he filmed the 1991 massacre of 271 protesters against Indonesian rule in East Timor.
Former East Timorese president José Ramos-Horta called him a “precious son”.
“We honor him as one of the true heroes of our struggle”, Ramos-Horta wrote on Facebook shortly before the director’s death.
Indonesia had ruled the former Portuguese colony since the invasion in 1975, and Stahl had traveled there in 1991 to shoot a diving video, Ramos-Horta said.
He heard about a planned protest march in a cemetery after a memorial service for an independence supporter.
Stahl told the BBC in 2016: “I was just getting my camera ready when there was a wall of sound, at least 10 seconds of continuous shooting. Soldiers who arrived fired at point blank range on a crowd of a couple. of thousands of young people “.
He added: “I could easily see that it was only a matter of time before they came to me, and at that point I thought, well, I had to get out of here.”
He buried the film in the cemetery, and it was later smuggled and broadcast around the world.
“There are only a few key points in East Timor’s history where our nation’s course has turned towards freedom,” Ramos-Horta wrote. “This was one of those points.
“It was the first time our message hit the world. Human rights networks sprang into action. Senators, congressmen and lawmakers came to our side. And this happened when a man was willing to risking his life to closely document what was happening. and smuggled the message out of our country. “
Stahl later revealed how survivors of the Santa Cruz massacre had been brutally killed in hospital; as well as documenting the crackdown when East Timor declared independence in 1999.
His journalistic career also saw him work as a war correspondent in Beirut.
He died of cancer in hospital in Brisbane, Australia on Wednesday.
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- Pietro Blu
- East Timor
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