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Haiti6 July 2004

Press freedom returns: a gain to be nurtured
Fact-finding mission reports

Press freedom has dramatically improved in Haiti since the fall of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide earlier this year, a Reporters Without Borders fact-finding mission said today.

It warned however that rebel forces still controlling half the country, as well as fervent supporters of the ex-president, remained a threat to journalists and that if the government failed to disarm them before elections planned for next year, the media might become the target of new violence.

The report, "Press freedom returns: a gain to be nurtured," said journalists working in the provinces were being forced to censor themselves for fear of the rebels, while those working the capital had very much more freedom.

The Haitian media has lived a nightmare since the April 2000 murder of the country’s best-known journalist, Jean Dominique. Aristide’s street gangs physically attacked journalists and radio stations and in early 2002 Aristide was added to the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of "predators of press freedom." A few weeks before, a second journalist, Brignol Lindor, was murdered and after Aristide protected the killers from punishment, the media worked in an atmosphere of constant fear.

The report, after a 7-11 June visit to Haiti, said the new rulers were taking a very different attitude to the murders of Dominique and Lindor and seemed determined to solve the cases. If they did so, it would "show that a return to the rule of law is under way for the whole society as well as for journalists, who have no defence against armed groups."

The press freedom organisation welcomed the "firm promises" made to the fact-finding mission and also awaited further information on the case of Spanish journalist Ricardo Ortega, who was shot dead, apparently by Aristide supporters, during an attack on an anti-Aristide demonstration on 7 March.

The report said that though the media was now much freer, the task of consolidating the gains - through disarmament and a return to the rule of law - was "enormous and goes beyond the issue of press freedom. Nothing is yet certain," it warned. But for the moment, one journalist told the mission, "we can breathe again."

read and download the report

In this country
3 December - Haiti
Seven years after radio journalist’s murder, convicted killers still at large
13 May - Haiti
Finger pointed at US interposition force in the 2004 death of journalist Ricardo Ortega
11 April - Haiti
Responses from Sen. Rudolph Boulos and Harold Sévère to Reporters Without Borders release on Jean Dominique murder
25 January - Haiti
Victory over impunity “within reach” in Lindor murder after seven are convicted in absentia
13 December - Haiti
Two gang members get life for journalist’s murder, a third is acquitted

in the annual report
Haiti - Annual Report 2008
Haiti - Annual report 2007
Haiti - Annual report 2006

14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

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