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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Haiti

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Haiti, February 1998, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
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.

With political violence in Haiti receding in the aftermath of the 1996 democratic elections, the island's once-beleaguered press is working freely, with little fear of government persecution. Rogue police commanders and sporadic street violence accounted for the handful of attacks in 1997. But the virtual demobilization of the military and the disbanding of Duvalier-backed paramilitary groups such as the Touton Macoute have greatly reduced the threat of government-sponsored violence against the press. With their physical safety no longer an overwhelming concern, journalists began to focus their energy on improving working conditions and access to information. Journalists claim that President René Preval, who took office in early 1996, is remote and inaccessible, generally talking only to hand-picked reporters invited into the National Palace. Faced with limited resources and overwhelming social needs, the Haitian government has not made an effort to get official documents and information into the hands of the public.

Nevertheless, Haitians have access to an increasingly broad range of information and views. The 70-percent illiteracy rate means that radio is the medium of choice, and the number of privately run local stations has doubled in the last few years. Call-in programs give voice to a wide variety of perspectives.

Years of covering Haiti's turmoil and political upheaval have made local journalists extremely proficient at reporting breaking news. But critics say reporters lack the necessary skills to do the analytic and investigative stories that the country's increasingly complex political reality demands. In order to remedy those deficiencies, a group of Haitian journalists who attended a UNESCO-sponsored seminar in December proposed the creation of a "Center for Freedom of Expression" devoted to professional training. While Haiti's overwhelming poverty is likely to limit the professional development of the media, journalists have gained the respect of Haitian society by reporting aggressively and often courageously through the years of political turmoil.

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