David Beer, the head of the civilian police component of the UN mission in Haiti announced yesterday that an investigation is under way into the circumstances in which journalist Laraque Robenson was fatally injured in a shootout between former soldiers and UN peacekeepers on 20 March in the southern town of Petit-Goâve. In the week following the incident, UN investigators went to Robenson’s radio station in Petit-Goâve, Tele Contact, to question staff.
6.04.05-Journalist dies from gunshot wounds
Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at the news that Haitian journalist Laraque Robenson, 25, of radio Tele Contact died in a Cuban hospital on 4 April from gunshot wounds he received two weeks earlier in the southern Haitian town of Petit-Goâve in shooting between UN peacekeepers and former soldiers occupying a police station.
"We convey our sincerest condolences to Laraque Robenson’s family and the staff at Tele Contact," the press freedom organization said, noting that Robenson died in similar circumstances to Spanish journalist Ricardo Ortega, who was fatally shot on in March 2004 in Port-au-Prince.
"This tragedy once again exposes the situation of anarchy in Haiti, where armed bands are escaping the control of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH), and as long as this continues, neither journalists’ safety nor press freedom will be guaranteed," Reporters Without Borders said.
The organization called for a thorough investigation to determine who fired the shots that caused Robenson’s fatal injuries. It also wrote to the UN security council, which is due to visit Haiti from 13 to 16 April, asking it to clarify MINUSTAH’s role in his death.
Robenson was taken to a hospital in Cuba for treatment to the two gunshot wounds he received to the head and neck during shooting that took place on 20 March when MINUSTAH peacekeepers used force to remove former soldiers from the police station they were occupying in Petit-Goâve.
Two former soliders and a Sri Lankan peacekeeper will killed in the shootout, which Robenson followed from the balcony of Tele Contact.
Tele Contact director Fred Jasmin told Reporters Without Borders: "There was fierce fighting. I was in the stairway with some of my colleagues. We wanted to go on to the street to interview a man who had been hit in the thigh. We could not go out. Suddenly we heard cries from upstairs. We went up and found Laraque on the floor, unconscious."
Jasmin claimed that Robenson was hit by shots fired by MINUSTAH peacekeepers. "There are the ones who fired," he told Reporters Without Borders. "It seems they carried out an investigation but we were never told anything."
Jasmin also criticized the passivity of the Haitian authorities. "No officials from the justice ministry or interior ministry ever came to the radio station after the shooting, and the police did not contact MINUSTAH," he said. Tele Contact intends to file a complaint against the government and MINUSTAH. "For that, we are waiting for the return of Laraque Robenson’s family from Cuba," he said.