Digital Literacy, Proletarian Society and Political Distortion in Timor-Leste.

Author: Basilio Madeira

This article aims to offer a critical point of view on the context of the role of the national media and public attitude on digital literacy to the society in Timor-Leste. Moreover, this article will look at the information aspect of the illiterates or proletariat class on how critical digital literacy can actually generate its objective to help in both educate and provide information to society and the illiterates groups. As Maio (2015) attests that media digital literacy influences society’s perspective on an analytical concept in social life. Similarly, Hesmondhalgh and Toynbee (2008), who edited the media and social theory book, clearly discuss the realistic lens of media that contribute the emancipatory reality to society. Media perceives, in reality, is happening in the society’s life, and it seeks to find out what situation is being played by the society and, at least, brings the free critical and analytical conception of free emancipation.


The role of media for the society, for example, referring to a new young nation like Timor-Leste, is a crucial aspect of changing the society’s mindset as this country has passed through a bitter experience of struggles for independence under the authoritarian role from the illegal occupation from Indonesia for 24 years.  After a long journey of its struggle, emerging from the post-colonial rules, the Timorese societies have moved through the experience of how the ruling class controls media from all kinds of critics by the Timorese societies.

Furthermore, after restoring its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste was not directly fully control their won government. This tiny nation was under the UN-led transition mission. In 2002, finally stood as one of the independent, democratic countries in the South East-Asian Region.

The process of state-building has been facing many challenges in the period of one government after another. Nevertheless, certain measures need to be taken into account and should have been developed. One of the issues to be highly considered is illiteracy to the so-called ”proletariat culture” or Déclassé, as Maio (2015) pointed out in his theoretical analysis. In this case, the term of the proletariat is referred to certain groups, mainly for the low classes are the target points.

In the national landscape scene, the societies of Timorese are labeled in the cycle of social class are those who have less opportunity to access social wellbeing equally and fairly. Particularly right to access information and education is visibly facing by many Timorese societies.

According to the World Data Atlas report (2018), the issue of proletarian societies in Timor-Leste illustrated that in 2018, the adult literacy rate for Timor-Leste was 68.1%. Compare to 2001, and it was about 37.6%. This situation indicates that the annual average is about 22.18%.  Moreover, the statistical data shown that the situation of illiterates in Timor-Leste, to argue the issue of media discourse, using Maio’s analysis, it is considered relevant to apply in this case.

Moreover, in his analytical discourse on Hegemony and Education under Neoliberalism, he points out that ‘’critical media literacy becomes an important feature of a critical engagement within either the interstices of state involvement or social movements”. Furthermore, he emphasizedthat the role of “Electronic networking” reveals more opportunities for public discourse. Furthermore, critical media literacy also offers a vital “vast dimension to the meaning of critical literacy reading not only the word but also the world.’

In the contemporary world, especially in globalization, media literacy is one of the vital aspects of every individual life. Both national and international, everyone will be attentively and critically paying attention to what is going on in the world. However, it also strongly requires individuals not only to read but deeply visualize the world. In this interpretation, nonetheless, on the contrary, in Timor-Leste, speaking of the media, critical literacy is destitute. This shows that some individuals are still insufficient to castigate more in-depth in digital media literacy. According to the Global Overview Report (2019), internet utilization users are seemingly numbered by internet utilizers’ separated applications. There are 560.0 or 42% of the population who are active in social media.

This situation indicates that there are more people out there that are unable on social media. Numerous Timorese societies cannot access social media, including vulnerable, older people, and illiterates. This situation also implicates those living in remote areas or unable to pay the credit to access or mind-blinded. How is it possible to play a role-play of daily digital media, especially those who are considered vulnerable or elderly, tend to interpret the news in their own way without having a critical mind to read and understand it or see the world the broader sense as it is?

By citing the argument of Hesmondhalgh and Toynbee (2008), they have obviously offered a clear analysis which they called ‘’ critical realism brings to this undertaking is explanatory power.”  Indeed, media in critical realism comes with a view of carrying out the explanatory power with a metatheoretical environment that media tends to support society to understand the context or problems or perhaps brings the emancipatory to the whole community just one group but completely as a driven force to all.

In this observation, we see media as the most dominant power of public media discourse, where media itself plays an enormous role in the state apparatus or society. Although media has the greatest impact on people, yet in one way or another, possessed by main state actors.

In this circumstance, it is visibly to envisage and argue that the state fully acts as logical apparatus as it the reality is, for example, the government is considered as one of the reservoirs to serve its people and guarantee that people are well established and have better treatments, economy, education, access to health care, etc. However, on the contrary lens, we can see what is really visibly happens is the government only at some points serves their interest rather than common interest. They seem not to divulge a significant portion of what its obligation is to do for the society in Timor-Leste.

Society who live in remote areas is remaining to experience various challenges in their life and become more vulnerable to have benefited from the government policy for the development of this tiny nation. In fact, various state actors, including in Timor-Leste, use public discourses like media to influence public attitudes with a political distortion, and this situation has undermined accountable and transparent information to the societies. Political motivation and interest are the main objectives to pursue by the government rater doing the right policy to bring more benefit to the societies. This situation has become a new social phenomenon; the idea of liberating Timorese from all forms of invasion or colonization or any form of illegal occupation has been mishandled, the spirit of the government to promote the development agenda of Timor-Leste society and free them from hunger and illiterate and so on remains as apolitical dreams and promises.

For Timor-Leste, digital media literacy plays a significant role in today’s context, and education probably is one of the keys to educating people to think and act as critical as it can bring the emancipatory to the state main actors and societies. Also, digital media literacy carries out an essential role in the government, where they serve as key main actors, meaning that main state actors, held in the government, should primarily take on the responsibility at such respectful acts by any means to really serve the society as a respectable citizen and brings a long-lasting development.

Furthermore, digital media literacy is a factor of all aspects, where it can given an impact on people to see and react logically to any of the outcomes carried out by media owners or government, or other private entities. Whatever the outcomes, media consumers will become judges to justify or interpret the reality of the actors who control media in Timor-Leste. The tendency we see today is that society observes the information as something else like in media. Besides that, critical, digital media literacy should effectively be placed in the society to critically and logically react with value and integrity, as well as for the people with the proletarian culture and illiterates are immensely tough and challenging. Therefore, digital media literacy must be introduced to them to also take part, especially in this cutting-edge technology seems as great challenges to acquire or adjust to the advanced and sophisticated media to read the world.

Finally, there are certain measures to be taken into considerations and the recommendations for the state actors to consider by taking concrete action and seeing that digital media literacy is essential and should be taught as an education curricular and thus applied to the societies.


Knoema. 2018. World Data Atlas report. Online:; rate#:~:text=In%202018%2C%20adult%20literacy%20rate,average%20annual%20rate%20of%2022.18%25.<access: 11/03/2021>

Maio, Peter(2015) Hegemony and Education unde Neoliberalism. New York, NY 10017, 2015.

Global Overview Report. Slideshare. (2019).

Toynbee, David Hesmondhalgh and Jason Toynbee (2008). The media and Social Theory. USA and Canada: 270 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016, 2008.


Published by Celso Da Fonseca

I'm just a dreamer who enjoys my freedom. Freethinker, free writer, and free dream.

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