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Freedom of the Press 2011 - Haiti

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 23 September 2011
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2011 - Haiti, 23 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e7c84fb28.html [accessed 1 October 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.

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 14
Political Environment: 17
Economic Environment: 18
Total Score: 49

The Haitian constitution upholds press freedom and forbids censorship except in the case of war, and these rights are generally upheld in practice. Journalists in Haiti work in difficult conditions with widespread and entrenched poverty, a corrupt judiciary, violence, intimidation, and a tradition of excessively biased media, and this was intensified in the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake outside of Port-au-Prince in January 2010.

Despite harsh conditions in Haiti, the media situation has steadily improved over the past few years, and there have been efforts to address violence against journalists and the related problem of impunity for past crimes. The Independent Commission to Support the Investigations of Assassinations of Journalists was launched in 2008 by the president and the local press freedom group S.O.S. Journalistes to assist in the investigation and prosecution of past murders of journalists. Defamation remains a criminal offense, although there were no reported cases of it in 2010. The state-run National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) issues licenses to radio stations and does not regulate content. There are six media associations or organizations, but no national code of ethics. As a result, there is no national body regulating journalism ethics and conduct.

No journalists were murdered in 2010, though many died as a result of the earthquake. In September, Orpha Dessources of Radio Boukman was beaten by police while she attempted to attend a press conference held by the police department regarding the arrest of a local gangster. In December, there were several incidents of journalists being harassed and mistreated during violent street protests after the announcement of the presidential and legislative elections. Esther Dorestal, a reporter for Radio Metropole, was stopped and threatened by supporters of one presidential candidate as she was travelling to work in Port-au-Prince. A Haiti Press Network cameraman was attacked by the National Palace, reportedly by a group of people who believed that the news outlet had supported the rigging of the elections.

The earthquake affected all aspects of media. More than 95 percent of commercial and community radio stations – the primary source of news in Haiti – went off the air because of heavy damage to their equipment and offices. Nearly all radio stations had resumed broadcasting by the end of 2010, but many of them operated from tents or private homes. Many television stations had also returned to the airwaves by the end of the year. In print media, two major Haitian daily newspapers, Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin, stopped publishing in the aftermath of the quake, but continued to use the internet to spread the news. Le Nouvelliste began printing newspapers again in April, but Le Matin continued to only publish on the internet. Haiti's sole Creole-language newspaper,Bon Nouvel, also stopped publication after the earthquake as its offices and printing facilities were destroyed. Because many radio stations depend on revenue from advertising, the destruction of the capital's commercial and business sectors put a huge strain on their finances. Of about 50 pre-quake advertisers, only 10 maintained advertising after the catastrophe. In May, the Haitian government approved a $5 million package to support and rebuild the nation's media, but by the end of the year, financial assistance had only been provided to around 30 media outlets in the capital, which have each received sums ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 dollars. The provincial media were still waiting.

Radio remains by far the most popular news medium. There are four weeklies and two newspapers that publish more than once a week, all of which are privately owned. Television Nationale d'Haiti is government-owned, and there are several private television stations. However, Haiti's television audience is small due to lack of electricity and resources. The concentration of wealth among a small number of Haitians negatively affects media outlets' ability to obtain advertising revenue and sustain themselves financially. Journalists also struggle with low salaries, and some media outlets and journalists accept bribes due to economic hardship. There are no government restrictions on the internet, which was accessed by 8.37 percent of the population in 2010.

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