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Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Haiti

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2005
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Haiti, February 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c566da23.html [accessed 16 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide attacked opposition journalists in the months prior to the uprising that forced Aristide from power in February. After the president fled the country, rebel groups targeted pro-Aristide journalists, particularly in Haiti's rural northern and central regions.

Violence against journalists was especially intense in January and February, when the rebels moved closer to the capital, Port-au-Prince. On February 21, a day before the insurgency took the northern city of Cap-Haitien, Pierre Elisem, director and owner of Trou du Nord-based Radio Hispagnola and a correspondent with privately owned, Port-au-Prince-based Radio Métropole, was beaten and shot twice in the neck by assailants from Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party.

Partially paralyzed, Elisem was flown to Port-au-Prince with the help of humanitarian aid workers and rebels. The only functioning hospital in Haiti's capital lacked the equipment needed to test and treat him, so CPJ and Radio Métropole Director Richard Widmaier arranged to medevac Elisem to a hospital in the Dominican Republic. He was released at the end of March and now lives in Florida, where he has applied for political asylum. Elisem has recovered some mobility and is able to walk short distances without a cane.

With more than 200 foreign journalists arriving in Haiti to cover the February violence, the international press also became a target; many Aristide partisans saw the foreign media as sympathetic to the rebel cause. On March 7, Ricardo Ortega, a correspondent for the Spanish television station Antena 3, was fatally shot while covering demonstrations celebrating Aristide's departure and calling for his prosecution. In the same incident, Michael Laughlin, a photographer with the Florida – based daily Sun Sentinel, was shot in the face, neck, and shoulder. Laughlin, as well as several photographers caught in the crossfire, believe that pro-Aristide militants may have targeted journalists. In late March, Aristide supporter Yvon Antoine and Police Inspector Jean-Michel Gaspard were arrested and investigated for their involvement in the incident. Gaspard was released on June 2 and was not charged. Antoine remained jailed, but no trial date had been set by year's end.

After conducting its own investigation and interviewing witnesses in Haiti, Antena 3 aired an October 27 special report concluding that the U.S. military could have fired the bullet that killed Ortega. A U.S. Embassy official disputed that assertion in an interview with the station. A Marine Corps spokesman did not respond to inquiries from CPJ seeking comment.

After Aristide fled Haiti, a provisional U.S.- and U.N.-backed government took office on March 17. Led by Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, a business consultant and former U.N. official who had been living in Florida, the new government vowed to re-establish democracy and restore the rule of law. Since then, journalists say that press freedom conditions have improved markedly for the majority of Port-au-Prince-based private radio stations, which had endured years of threats and attacks by Lavalas militants.

But journalists sympathetic to Aristide and the Lavalas party became targets after the former president's departure. At least three pro-Aristide journalists were illegally detained; a media outlet was shuttered; and another was forced to suspend news broadcasts, according to CPJ research. In addition, a number of journalists went into hiding out of fear for their lives. Many private radio stations, which plunged into the political arena by openly promoting the opposition's agenda during the Aristide administration, have ignored attacks against pro-Lavalas journalists and rarely criticized Latortue's government.

The government says that Haitian journalists work in a much safer environment today, but it acknowledges that illegal armed groups still control sections of the country. While former rebels remain a dominant force in cities like Cap-Haitien, Mirebalais, and Hinche, which police deserted during the February unrest, former soldiers from the disbanded Haitian military have seized several other towns. In many of these cities, the intimidating environment has encouraged self-censorship, says Guyler Delva, secretary-general of the Association of Haitian Journalists.

At least 100 people have been killed in politically linked violence since September 30, when Aristide activists stepped up protests to demand his return from exile in South Africa.

Four years after the murder of Jean-Léopold Dominique, one of Haiti's most renowned journalists, the crime remains unsolved. The long-stalled case was revived somewhat in July, when an appeals court ruling allowed proceedings to resume after being blocked for almost a year. The ruling opened the door for the nomination of a new examining judge, who will conduct another investigation. No judge had been nominated by year's end.

Dominique, the outspoken owner and director of the independent station Radio Haïti-Inter, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in April 2000. In August 2004, two of the men accused of the killing were recaptured more than seven months after escaping from the Port-au-Prince National Penitentiary. Another suspect charged in the murder remains at large.


2004 Documented Cases – Haiti

JANUARY 13, 2004
Posted: January 23, 2004

Radio Transmission Plant
ATTACKED

According to local press reports, on Tuesday morning, January 13, a group of armed individuals arrived in two vehicles at a radio transmission plant located on a hillside in the neighborhood of Boutilliers, outside of suburban Port-au-Prince. The attackers tied up the plant's guard and smashed the transmitters with hammers, seriously damaging the equipment. The attack, which forced eight radio stations and one television station off the air, came in the wake of violent street clashes between government supporters and opponents.

Seven privately owned radio stations went off the air: Kiskeya, Signal FM, Galaxie, Mélodie FM, Magic Stereo, Plus, and Commercial. Radio Ti Moun and Télé Ti Moun, which belong to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Foundation for Democracy, were also off the air following the attack. Police said they were investigating the incident.

Radio Galaxie and Télé Ti Moun resumed broadcast on January 14, while the other stations could be off the air for at least five days, a source told CPJ.

Since September 2003, there have been several violent anti-government protests in many Haitian cities, including Port-au-Prince. At least 40 people have been killed and more than a 100 have been wounded.

The protesters, which Radio Kiskeya and Signal FM have widely covered, have been calling for Aristide's resignation.

FEBRUARY 5, 2004
Posted: February 20, 2004

Sony Bastien, Radio Kiskeya
THREATENED

Bastien, president and general director of the Port-au-Prince-based private station Radio Kiskeya, received death threats after he read an editorial on February 5 criticizing President Jean Bertrand Aristide for accusing the Association Nationale des Médias Haitiens (National Association of Haitian Media), an association of local media owners, of having links to armed groups that have recently taken over several regions in Haiti.

The editorial also criticized Aristide's treatment of Radio Vision 2000 journalist Alex Regis, whom the president accused of being hired by opposition parties because the journalist asked him in a press conference about recent street protests calling for his resignation.

Bastien told CPJ that he fears for his life and his family's after learning from a reliable source inside Haiti's National Palace that members of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party and of militant groups, or "popular organizations," which support Aristide, had included his name in a list of people to be executed.

According to Bastien, after the editorial aired, he received calls from unidentified individuals telling him that he should start walking with a coffin under his arm. Around February 14, Bastien noticed that armed members of popular organizations were taking up positions near his residence, and anonymous callers told him that Radio Kiskeya was going to get burned.

According to Bastien's source in the National Palace, the list also includes Radio Kiskeya's Lilianne Pierre-Paul; Marie Lucie Bonhomme, of Radio Vision 2000; Euvrard Saint-Armand, of Caraibes FM; and Rotchild François Junior, of Radio Métropole.

Haiti remains in turmoil since armed groups that formerly supported President Aristide turned against him and attacked several police stations across the country in early February. The armed groups, which have recently joined forces with former paramilitary leaders convicted of perpetrating human rights abuses, control large parts of the country.

FEBRUARY 11, 2004
Posted: February 27, 2004

Radio America
ATTACKED

A group of antigovernment activists attacked and torched the privately owned, pro-government station Radio America, in the west-coast town of St. Marc. No one was injured in the attack, but the station was forced off the air.

According to local press reports, armed supporters of the Group of Principled Militants of Saint Marc (RAMICOS), allied with the opposition, attacked the radio station. The group accused the station of supporting the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

On November 12, 2003, members of the same group attacked and set fire to another pro-government station Radio Pyramide. According to CPJ sources, armed members of the group RAMICOS burst into Pyramide's offices and smashed its equipment. After the staff ran from the building, the angry mob set fire to the station. The station was closed temporarily and forced off the air. After it reopened it was attacked again on January 14. The station's owner, Fritson Orius, fled to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, in fear of his life.

FEBRUARY 12, 2004
Posted: February 27, 2004

Radio Claudy Museau
Paradis FM
Sud FM
HARASSED

Community radio station Claudy Museau and independent stations Paradis FM and Sud FM, in the southern city of Les Cayes, stopped broadcasting news after receiving constant threats and harassment, according to the Haitian Journalists Association.

Armed individuals allegedly supporting the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party have threatened several journalists working for the three radio stations. The radio stations received threatening calls and decided to stop broadcasting news, Guyler Delva, secretary general of the Haitian Journalists Association told CPJ.

The southern port of Les Cayes, Haiti's third-largest city, fell Thursday, February 27, to the Base Resistance, a group allied with Haiti's opposition Democratic Platform but not tied to the rebels that are now in control of large parts of the country.

FEBRUARY 20, 2004
Posted: February 26, 2004

Claude Bellevue, Radio IBO
Carlos Loret, Televisa
Raúl Guzmán, Televisa
Jorge Pliego, Televisa
Roberto Andrade, TV Azteca
ATTACKED

Bellevue, a reporter with independent station Radio IBO, and Loret, Guzmán, Pliego and Andrade, correspondents working for two Mexican television networks, were attacked while covering a peaceful student protest in the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, local and international media reported.

Bellvue was slightly injured after alleged pro-government armed groups shot him with a 12-caliber rifle. Reporter Loret and cameramen Guzmán and Pliego, who all work for Televisa, and Andrade, a cameraman with TV Azteca, were attacked with machetes, stoned, and chased by a group of angry government supporters, The Associated Press and Televisa reported.

Guyler Delva, president of the Association of Haitian Journalists, told CPJ that the situation is becoming increasingly violent, and that both local and foreign journalists are at risk.

FEBRUARY 21, 2004
Posted: February 27, 2004

Pierre Elisem, Radio Hispagnola
ATTACKED

Elisem, director and owner of Radio Hispagnola, in the northern city of Trou du Nord, was shot by unidentified gunmen, according to local press reports. A bullet hit Elisem's neck, paralyzing him as a result, a doctor treating the journalist told CPJ. Elisem, who also works as a correspondent for the independent, Port-au-Prince-based Radio Métropole, was shot twice in the back while driving to the city of Cap-Haïtien, which is now controlled by armed groups opposed to the government. Elisem began receiving threats after he started broadcasting news from Radio Métropole on Radio Hispagnola in early February, according to Radio Métropole. Pro-government loyalists accused the journalist of working for the opposition, local reporters told CPJ. Alleged supporters of the Lavalas party set Radio Hispagnola on fire on Sunday, according to local press reports.

Haiti has been in turmoil since armed groups that formerly supported President Aristide turned against him and attacked several police stations across the country in early February. The armed groups, which have recently joined forces with former paramilitary leaders convicted of perpetrating human rights abuses, control large parts of the country.

FEBRUARY 22, 2004
Posted: February 26, 2004

Radio Afrika
Radio Télé Kombit
Radio Hispagonla
ATTACKED

According to CPJ sources, a group of armed rebels ransacked and torched the offices of the pro-government radio stations Radio Afrika and Radio Télé Kombit in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien. Both stations are owned by members of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party. Armed groups opposed to the government have taken control of Cap-Haïtien.

In the northern city of Trou du Nord, alleged supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas set Radio Hispagnola on fire, according to local press reports. Unidentified gunmen shot Pierre Elisem, owner and director of Radio Hispagnola, the day before his radio station was torched. A bullet hit Elisem's neck, paralyzing him as a result, said a doctor treating the journalist.

FEBRUARY 29
Posted: March 8, 2004

Téle Haïti
Radio Vision 2000
Radio IBO
Radio Signal FM
Radio Passion
ATTACKED

Alleged supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party ransacked the offices of the Port-au-Prince-based independent cable network Téle Haïti. As a result of the attack, equipment was totally destroyed. The offices were closed at the time of the attack, and no one was injured, according to the secretary general of the Haitian Journalists Association Guyler Delva.

On the same day, alleged pro-Aristide supporters opened fire on the offices of Port-au-Prince-based independent radio stations Radio Vision 2000, Radio IBO, and Signal FM forcing them to stop transmissions, Delva said. No one was injured in the attacks. Radio Passion, in the city of Leogane, 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, was also attack by alleged pro-government loyalists and partially destroyed.

After President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resigned and fled the country on February 29, pro-government supporters roamed the streets with guns, machetes, and sticks, firing and attacking crowds in downtown Port-au-Prince. The capital city was in chaos as looters pillaged markets, stores, and banks.

MARCH 1, 2004
Posted: April 6, 2004

Radio and Télé Ti Moun
Radio Solidarité
ATTACKED AND HARASSED

Anti-Aristide rebels ransacked the offices of Radio and Télé Ti Moun, which belonged to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Foundation for Democracy. Both the radio and television stations had gone off the air shortly before Aristide's left the country on February 29.

The offices were partially destroyed, but no one was injured in the attack, according to the Haitian Journalists Association (AJH). Some of the journalists working for Radio and Télé Ti Moun received threatening phone calls following the attack.

Radio Solidarité, a pro-Aristide radio station, stopped broadcasting news on March 1 after receiving threatening phone calls. The station resumed broadcast on Monday, April 6, although some of the journalists are still receiving threats, said Guyler Delva, AJH's secretary general.

Since the uprising that led to Aristide's ouster began on February 5, pro-Aristide radio stations around the country were attacked. Many journalists working for these stations continue to fear reprisals.

MARCH 7, 2004
Posted: March 8, 2004

Ricardo Ortega, Antena 3
KILLED

Michael Laughlin, Sun Sentinel
ATTACKED

Ortega, 37, correspondent for the Spanish television station Antena 3, was shot twice in the chest when gunmen opened fire on demonstrators in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. The demonstrators were calling for the prosecution of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Ortega was taken to Canape Vert Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where he died an hour later.

Laughlin, 37, a photographer with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.­based daily Sun Sentinel was hit in his face, neck, and shoulder. He was evacuated from Haiti and flown to a hospital at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Laughlin is in stable condition and expected to be transferred today to a Miami hospital, the Sun Sentinel reported.

According to international press reports, the crowd was dispersing when shots were fired from different directions on the central Champs de Mars plaza. When gunfire erupted, a group of journalists and demonstrators took refuge in the courtyard of a nearby house. Gunmen standing on the roof or on a balcony fired into the courtyard, the Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald reported.

Witnesses said they saw Aristide supporters start the shooting, according to The Associated Press. Four Haitians were killed and dozens were injured during the incident.

MARCH 13, 2004
Posted: March 24, 2004

Elysée Sincére, Radio Vision 2000
ATTACKED

Sincère, a correspondent for the Port-au-Prince-based Radio Vision 2000 in the city of Petit-Goâve, in southwestern Haiti, was attacked by rebels who had forced the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

According to the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), anti-Aristide rebels fired several bullets at Sincère's home. A relative of Sincere's was wounded, Sincère's dog was killed, and his car was burned.

The attack came after the journalist phoned in a report about the presence of armed groups that are vying to control the city despite the fact that a new Haitian government was formed on March 17. In his report, Sincère said that two people had been killed in clashes between an armed group close to rebel leader Guy Philipe and another group close to the National Democratic Movement (MDN), an opposition political party.

Sincère also reported that there were several weapon caches in Petit-Goâve. Sincère said his news report angered anti-Aristide rebels, according to the AJH.

The journalist lives with his father, Montigène Sincère, who is a correspondent for the U.S.-government-funded broadcast service Voice of America in Petit-Goâve and an MDN member.

MARCH 30, 2004
Posted: April 12, 2004

Lyonel Lazarre, Radio Solidarité and Agence Haïtienne de Presse
ATTACKED

Lazarre, a correspondent for the Port-au-Prince-based Radio Solidarité and the news agency Agence Haïtienne de Presse in the southern city of Jacmel, was abducted and beaten by a group of former Haitian soldiers after he reported alleged abuses by police forces in the neighboring town of Belle-Anse. Lazarre was released the next day.

According to the Haitian Journalists Association (AJH), Radio Express Continental, a small private station in Jacmel, broadcast the journalist's report.

After beating Lazarre, the kidnappers forced him to tell them the location of Jacky Jean Baptiste, a correspondent for pro-Aristide radio station Radio Ginen who was also accused of criticizing police abuses in the area. Fearing for his life, Baptiste went into hiding, Guyler Delva, AJH's secretary general told CPJ.

Since the uprising that led to Aristide's ouster began on February 5, pro-Aristide radio stations around the country have been attacked. Many journalists working for these stations continue to fear reprisals.

APRIL 16, 2004
Posted: May 3, 2004

Jeanty André Omilert, Radio Solidarité and Radio Excellesior
KIDNAPPED

Omilert, correspondent for the Port-au-Prince­based Radio Solidarité and a reporter for radio Excellesior in the city of Mirebalais, in central Haiti, was abducted by a group of former soldiers and illegally detained at the local police station. The journalist was released on Monday, April 19.

Former members of the Haitian military kidnapped Omilert in front of radio Excellesior without giving any reason. According to CPJ sources, the former soldiers were angered by Omilert's reports about insecurity and the unstable political situation in the region.

Guyler Delva, president of the Haitian Journalists Association (AJH), and Geffrard Bien-Aimé, news director of Radio Solidarité, claimed that the detention was illegal and said that former soldiers have no authority to make arrests. During Omilert's detention, family members were not allowed to visit him.

Since the uprising that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, former soldiers have taken control of the city of Mirebalais and are acting as de facto local authorities. Journalists that criticize the actions of illegal armed groups fear reprisals.

MAY 15, 2004
Posted: May 26, 2004

Charles Edmond Prosper, Radio Tropic FM
KIDNAPPED

Prosper, correspondent for Radio Tropic FM in the city of Mirebalais, Central Plateau Region, in central Haiti, was abducted by a group of former Haitian soldiers. The reporter was illegally detained in a local police station until his release on May 17.

The group, led by a man named Emmanuel Philippe who proclaims himself to be the military commander of the area, kidnapped Prosper for broadcasting reports about the volatile political situation and the lack of police presence in the region, according to local press reports.

The soldiers also accused Prosper, who received threats in the weeks before his abduction, of being close to the Fanmi Lavalas political party.

Guyler C. Delva, the secretary-general of Haitian Journalists' Association, told CPJ that armed men are harassing journalists who work for pro-Lavalas radio stations in Central Plateau Region.

On April 16, Jeanty André Omilert, correspondent for the Port-au-Prince-based Radio Solidarité and a reporter for Radio Excellesior in Mirebalais, was also abducted by a group of former soldiers and illegally detained at the local police station. The journalist was released on Monday, April 19.

MAY 28, 2004
Posted: June 2, 2004

Aryns Laguerre, Télé Ti Moun
IMPRISONED

Police arrested Laguerre, a cameraman with the television station Télé Ti Moun, in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Télé Ti Moun is owned by the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, which was founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

According to Guyler Delva, secretary-general of the Haitian Journalists Association, Laguerre is being held without charge.

Delva met with police officers on May 29 who said they found four bullets in one of Laguerre's pockets, and that he was being detained for further investigation. Laguerre denied that he was carrying any bullets, according to Delva. The Haitian government has given no explanation about the arrest.

CPJ tried to reach Justice Minister Bernard Gousse and police Chief Leon Charles, but they were unavailable for comment.

AUGUST 30, 2004
Posted: October 4, 2004

Lyonel Louis, Haiti en Marche
ATTACKED

Louis, a photographer with the Port-au-Prince-based weekly Haiti en Marche, was attacked and severely beaten by a gang believed to be loyal to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Louis was covering the visit of a French minister to a hospital in the Cite Soleil slum, in Haiti's capital.

While Renaud Muselier, France's secretary of state for foreign affairs, and a delegation of French officials were inside St. Catherine's Hospital, gunmen opened fire outside, sparking a gun battle that left one gang member dead and a French soldier wounded, according to local and international press reports.

Gang members armed with rocks and sticks chased and beat Louis in the head. According to Marcus Garcia, Haiti en Marche's co-editor, Brazilian soldiers with the United Nations peacekeeping force helped the photographer and took him to a hospital to treat his wounds.

Garcia told CPJ that the attackers had accused Louis and other journalists covering the visit of the French delegation of working for the Group of 184, an alliance of civil society organizations and political parties that organized demonstrations against Aristide and his Lavalas Party beginning in 2003.

Cite Soleil, one of Haiti's poorest neighborhoods, remains an Aristide stronghold. Militants are still resisting the government of Gérard Latortue, which assumed power after Aristide left Haiti on February 29 amid a rebellion.

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