Freedom of Expression

Press release R9/22

The Special Rapporteur condemns the murder of journalists John Wesley Amady and Wilguens Louissaint in Haiti and urges the State to diligently investigate those responsible


January 10, 2022

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalists John Wesley and Wilguens Louissaint on January 6 in Laboule 12, Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, and urges the State to independently, diligently and effectively investigate these crimes, considering the exercise of journalistic work as its main line of investigation in relation to their motives.

According to information received by the Rapporteur’s Office, John Wesley Amady, of the Canadian radio station Radio Ecoute FM, and Wilguens Louissaint, a local reporter for various digital media, were killed on the afternoon of January 6, 2021 after being shot while reporting on the escalating tension and violent clashes between criminal gangs for control of the Laboule 12 area. According to the information available, a third journalist, Wilmann Vil, managed to escape the attack alive. The Haitian National Police (HNP) arrived on the scene less than twenty-four hours after the event and recovered the remains of the two journalists. As reported to this Office, the HNP is also in contact with the surviving journalist, Mr. Wilmann Vil, to ensure his protection and to investigate the crime. It should be noted that these acts occurred shortly after the murder of Police Inspector Dan-Jerry TOUSSAINT, who was shot dead on Saturday, January 1, 2022, by heavily armed bandits while patrolling the same area. 

In the context of the brutal murder during the exercise of journalistic work, the Office of the Special Rapporteur considers prima facie that the crimes committed against Jhon Wesley Amady and Wilguens Louissaint are related to the informative work they were carrying out and therefore the investigations are called to consider the nature of the crime as the main hypothesis. Particularly with respect to the journalist Wilmann Vil, who reportedly managed to survive the attack, this office asks the State to clarify his condition and provide immediate protection.

According to Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, "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 States to prevent and investigate these acts, punish the perpetrators and ensure adequate reparation for the victims".

The Rapporteur’s Office also notes that the aforementioned murders occur in a context of growing citizen insecurity and violence by armed gangs in the Haitian capital, which also affects the press; and in an environment of prevailing impunity for crimes committed against journalists exercising their right to freedom of expression. In its 2020 annual report, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reported several complaints received on the lack of judicial progress in relation to attacks and murders against journalists. In 2021, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur’s Office had already noted with concern the murders of activist Antoniette Duclaire and journalist Diego Charles.

The Rapporteur’s Office reiterates that there is nothing more permissive to the repetition of violence against the press than the absence of a forceful institutional reaction, since it sends a tolerant message to violence, encouraging the occurrence of new crimes. All this leads to an effect of self-censorship.

Therefore, this Office urges the State to adopt -as soon as possible- actions to investigate, prosecute and criminally punish those responsible for these crimes and to fully compensate the victims and strengthen the mechanisms for the protection of journalists. The Rapporteur’s Office encourages the international community to allocate human and financial resources to cooperate with the State of Haiti in order to facilitate the fulfillment of its international obligations with respect to guarantees for a free press.  In the face of these acts of lethal violence against the press in Haiti, this office invites the State authorities to publicly recognize clearly and firmly the legitimacy and value of journalistic work and to strongly condemn the recent attacks against press workers

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage 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.