Vote of Condolences for the Death of Max Stahl

Presidency of the Council of Ministers

Eighth Constitutional Government


Dili, October 28th, 2021

Press Release

Vote of Condolences for the Death of Max Stahl

With profound sadness, the Government of Timor-Leste received the news of the passing away of Max Stahl, journalist and director, responsible for filming the images of the Santa Cruz Massacre, in 1991, that drew attention to the situation in the Country and put Timor-Leste on the top of the international agenda, which became an important contribution for the self-determination of the Timorese People.

Max Stahl died today, October 28th, in Brisbane, victim of long-term illness, on the same day that marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Sebastião Gomes, which led to the tribute that culminated in the Santa Cruz massacre.

Christopher Wenner, better known as Max Stahl, was born on December 6th, 1954, in the United Kingdom.

After experiencing several conflict scenarios, mainly in Latin America, in August 1991, Max Stahl came to Timor-Leste to film the documentary that would later be called “In Cold Blood: The massacre of East Timor”.

On November 12th, 1991, he accompanied the tribute march from Motael Church to the grave of Sebastião Gomes, which culminated in the Santa Cruz Cemetery Massacre, in which hundreds of young Timorese were killed by the Indonesian military. The images travelled around the world and made the Timorese drama known internationally.

His professionalism and extreme courage gave a fundamental boost to the diplomatic front of the Timorese Resistance, putting Timor-Leste on the front pages of the world media, after several years in which the Timorese situation had remained hidden from world public opinion.

Max Stahl interviewed several Timorese resistance leaders, such as Commander David Alex Daitula and Commander Nino Konis Santana.

He also created the Max Stahl Audiovisual Centre in Timor-Leste (CAMSTL), in order to preserve and disseminate the audiovisual collection documenting the resistance period, the events during and after the referendum and the first years of independence up to the present day. In 2013, this collection was recognised by UNESCO by being inscribed in the Memory of the World Register, a programme created with the aim of protecting and promoting the world’s documentary heritage through conservation and access to documents.

In 2000, he received the Rory Peck Award, an award that honours independent video journalists. He has received many other awards in recognition of his work in conflict zones, such as the Balkan and El Salvador wars.

In 2009, he was awarded with the Order of Timor-Leste Insignia and in 2019 he received the Necklace of the Order of Timor-Leste, the highest national decoration.

Also in 2019, he was awarded with the Timorese nationality by the National Parliament, in an act that “represents the People of Timor-Leste’s tribute to the humanistic spirit, selflessness and extraordinary courage of Max Stahl” and that “expresses gratitude and recognition of the exceptional deeds performed by an exceptional man”.

The Spokesperson of the Government, Minister Fidelis Magalhães, on behalf of the Government and all the Timorese People, presented his most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the dear Max Stahl and stated that “the Timorese People will be forever grateful for his contribution to national self-determination” and that “his courage and the legacy of his work will last forever in the memory of all of us”. END