The UN stabilisation force in Haiti (Minustah) apologised on 8 November 2006, to the daily Le Nouvelliste, whose photographer François Louis was assaulted five days previously by five ‘blue helmets’ during a demonstration at Martissant, in the suburbs of the capital Port-au-Prince.
“The internal investigations we have carried out revealed that a police officer with Minustah did in fact assault the photographer, François Louis, in the Martissant district. The officer has had it noted in his file. The Minustah regrets this incident, all the more so since we are in Haiti at the invitation of the Haitian government and we respect the right of journalists to work without any form of hindrance”, said Jean-Jacques Simon, acting head of Minustah’s communications and public information service during a visit to Le Nouvelliste. The editor of the daily, Max Chauvet, accepted the UN body’s apologies.
06.11.06 - UN forces assault photographer for daily Le Nouvelliste
Reporters Without Borders condemned an assault by UN forces in Haiti on photographer François Louis, of the daily Le Nouvelliste as he was covering a demonstration in Port-au-Prince by supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in which one person died.
Louis was set upon by Senegalese forces of the UN Stabilisation Force (Minustah) in Martissant, one of the capital’s most dangerous suburbs on 3 November 2006 as the ex president’s supporters marched, some of them threatening reprisals unless they were reinstated in their government jobs.
“The African soldiers forcibly held me, angrily ripping my shirt. They wanted to destroy the pictures I had taken because they were afraid their faces could be published in the paper, exposing them to be targeted by gangs”, the photographer told Reporters Without Borders, adding that some of the shots were ruined.
The UN forces often seemed more concerned for their own safety than for the stabilisation of the country, Louis added.
“The Minustah forces have overstepped their mission in preventing a photographer from doing his job,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “This incident is made all the worse because the Minustah is supposed to protect people, journalists included, from gang violence. Brutality of this kind could at any moment tip the situation back into the instability which has already cost the press very dearly.
“The commander of the UN forces should apologise to the newspaper and punish the abuses of his subordinates,” it added.
Around a thousand people have demonstrated since 1st November against the Minustah in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s biggest shantytown, which is controlled by the gangs.