Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today at an attack on Claude Bernard Serant and Jonel Juste of the daily Le Nouvelliste on 14 January, noting that it was "the first time that journalists have been hit by the wave of violence launched in the capital by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s supporters in September."
The press freedom organisation said it called on the authorities "to redouble efforts to disarm the former president’s supporters."
In a report issued on 6 July 2004, Reporters Without Borders welcomed the improvement in press freedom since Aristide’s departure but warned that, "as long as both Aristide’s supporters and the former soldiers who led the final rebellion against him remain armed, they will be a threat to the media" (Read the report).
Serant and Juste were attacked by Aristide supporters in the Port-au-Prince district of Bel-Air a day after an operation in Bel-Air by peacekeepers from the UN Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH). Their assailants beat them badly and stole their equipment and money.
"Don’t come back. The next time you won’t escape alive," Juste quoted one of them as saying in a report in Le Nouvelliste. The Aristide supporters accused them of being spies and said: "It is the fault of the journalists that Aristide is no longer in office." Both Serant and Juste had to be hospitalised.
Le Nouvelliste editor Pierre Manigat Jr. told Reporters Without Borders that their assailants had called the newspaper afterwards and banned its reporters from returning to Bel-Air. The ban applied to all the press that criticised the Aristide administration, he said.
Aristide’s supporters launched a wave of violence in Port-au-Prince on 30 September in an attempt to spread terror and confusion. More than 150 people have been killed in the capital including many policemen, some of whom were beheaded.