No journalist was killed in 2006 and physical attacks on the media declined after the February elections despite continuing lawlessness. The new government has not put an end to impunity however.
The more positive press freedom situation, with very few physical attacks on journalists, was surprising in view of the high level of violence in the country (mostly in the capital, Port-au-Prince) and in view of recent history, when journalists were liable at any moment to be the target of reprisals by gangs, often linked with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Movement. Lawlessness is an urgent issue for President René Préval, who took office on 14 May, but attacks on journalists for doing their job fell sharply during the year.
An attack by armed bandits on two journalists of Radio Kiskeya, Liliane Pierre-Paul and her brother Stéphane Pierre-Paul, the station’s editor, on 14 September in Port-au-Prince’s eastern suburb of Pétionville, came amid a new wave of ransoms for money. Journalist Lydie Bain Abdon, of Radio Lumière, narrowly escaped being kidnapped on 26 May in an attack apparently unrelated to her job.
The media also suffered at the hands of the authorities. Police broke the arm of Ernst Cadichon, of Radio Galaxie, in October after he identified himself to them as a journalist while reporting on a student demonstration in the capital. A photographer from the daily paper Le Nouvelliste, François Louis, was roughed up by UN stabilisation force (Minustah) soldiers during clashes between them and Aristide supporters in the capital on 3 November. A UN military spokesman formally apologised to the paper five days later.
The media has a long way to go before it recovers from the trauma it suffered during Aristide’s rule and the subsequent interim government. Impunity may continue if Préval’s government fails to build a proper justice system. The national police takes part in the lawlessness and judges still have no means of investigation. Gang leaders suspected of killing journalists are also still walking free in broad daylight. François “Bibi” Daniel, a gang leader in the Solino neighbourhood of the capital and suspected of the July 2005 kidnapping and killing journalist Jacques Roche, head of the culture desk at the daily Le Matin, even tried to buy his immunity by handing over weapons to the national disarmament and retraining commission on 12 September.
New investigating judges have still not been appointed in the enquiries into the murders of Jean Dominique, head of Radio Haïti Inter, and Brignol Lindor, of Radio Echo 2000. Two gang leaders suspected of killing of Dominique in 2000 are living in Martissant, a southern suburb of the capital, where they have reportedly resumed their criminal activities, and a third has fled abroad. The supreme court, where the case of Lindor (killed by Aristide supporters in the southern town of Petit-Goâve in 2001) has been stuck for the past two years, ruled in 2006 against the family’s bid to become a civil party in the case.