Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression
October 3, 2023
Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the escalation of violence against journalists and media outlets in Haiti and urges the authorities to carry out a full and effective investigation of the facts, and to increase their efforts to protect the press in the exercise of their profession.
So far in 2023, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has learned of several armed attacks, aggressions, and threats against the press, which are part of a context of resurgence of violence by armed gangs in Haiti and impunity, which has already been alerted by the IACHR. Three journalists have been killed so far in 2023 and in the context of the country's insecurity crisis: Paul Jean Marie, of Radio Lumière, on 5 May, in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets; Ricot Jean, of Radio-Télé Évolution Inter in the city of Saint-Marc, whose body was found on 25 April; and Dumesky Kersaint, of Radio Télé Inurep, on 16 April, in the commune of Carrefour, south of the capital.
According to the information available, in the last month, at least a dozen journalists have fled their homes in the Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhood, located in the southwest of Port-au-Prince, due to the wave of violence caused by gangs in control of the area. Among them would be a reporter from the independent local radio station Radio Télé Galaxie, the secretary general of the Association of Haitian Journalists, a camera operator from the independent local radio station Radio Télé Espace, the president of the Haitian Association of Online Media, and an editor of the independent news portal Le Facteur.
On 23 August, unidentified gunmen set fire to the home of Radio Télé Galaxie journalist Arnold Junior Pierre, who managed to escape unharmed with his family. Previously, on 31 July, Pierre was allegedly assaulted by a group of hooded people while covering a demonstration in the south-west area of Port-au-Prince and had to receive medical treatment.
On 11 August, Brown Larose, host of the weekly radio programme "Pawňl Geto", broadcast by Radio Télé Éclair, was the victim of an armed attack in front of his residence in the Delmas neighbourhood, east of Port-au-Prince, by an unidentified man. Larose was rushed to the hospital immediately, and the latest medical report is that his condition is stable. According to public information, the journalist had previously received threats related to his coverage of armed groups and his criticism of the current administration.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur has also received information about attacks against media facilities in other parts of the country. On 23 July, in the commune of Liancourt, Artibonite region, gang members allegedly set fire to Radio Antártida's facilities, destroying its transmission equipment and antenna. According to public information, the head of one of the illegal gangs would have accused the director and founder of the station of turning residents against his organization and revealing its location. A regional government official confirmed the attack and acknowledged the difficulty law enforcement faces in responding to recurring incidents of this kind.
Several kidnappings of journalists by criminal groups have also been reported. Among the victims are Blondine Tanis, presenter at Radio Rénovation FM (107.1FM); Marie Lucie Bonhomme, journalist for Radio Vision 2000 and co-owner of the radio and TV station Télé Pluriel; Pierre Louis Opont, co-owner of Télé Pluriel; Robert Dénis, general director of TV Canal Bleu and recently elected president of the National Association of Haitian Media; Lebrun Saint-Hubert, president and director of Radio 2000; Jean Thony Lorthé, presenter on Radio Vision 2000; and Sandra Duvivier, TV channel 5.
This Office recalls that the murder, kidnapping, intimidation, threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of the media, violate the fundamental rights of individuals and severely restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the State to prevent and investigate these acts, to punish the perpetrators and to ensure adequate reparation for the victims. The inter-American human rights system has considered that the combination of violence against journalists and impunity has a highly negative impact not only on journalists themselves and their families, but on society, as it deprives citizens of receiving information on issues that affect them, such as organized crime. drug trafficking and political corruption.
In view of the foregoing considerations, the Office of the Special Rapporteur calls on the Haitian State to investigate in a thorough, effective, and impartial manner what happened, to prosecute and punish those responsible, and to adopt all necessary and within its reach to protect journalists at risk. For this to be possible, the proactive accompaniment of the international community is important, to seek comprehensive and lasting solutions to the worsening of citizen insecurity and impunity for human rights violations in Haiti.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system. The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.