How the murder of a journalist in East Timor in 1999 impacted the life and work of Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen.
Step Vaessen investigates the murder of her friend and colleague Sander Thoenes by an Indonesian military battalion in East Timor in September 1999.
The Financial Times journalist was just 30 years old and full of promise when he was shot and mutilated while covering the violence during the nation’s independence struggle. He was the last of at least 12 people executed by the battalion.
His killing has had a deep impact on Step’s professional life; affecting the way she sees her chosen profession. But it has caused even more devastation in her personal life. Her husband, and sometimes cameraman, went into a depression and committed suicide.
As well as exploring how that single event has had such a profound impact on her life, Step goes in search of the members of the military battalion that killed Thoenes. None have ever been brought to justice. In fact, two of the commanders who ordered the killings are now running for the Indonesian presidency. One of them is the leading candidate.
Step also finds the family members of other victims of the battalion, examining how they have had to cope with trying to forgive these crimes and exploring the consequences of the impunity that has permeated Indonesian society.