President of an independent commission probing murders of journalists, Joseph Guyler C. Delva, forced by repeated death threats to leave the country suddenly two weeks ago, returned to Port-au-Prince on 25 November.
Delva, who presides the Independent Commission for Supporting Investigations into Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ) fled on 9 November after being chased by a gang of unknown men in the Pétion-Ville district of the capital.
He went first to the Dominican Republic and from there to Florida. On his return to Haiti, he was greeted by Claudy Gassant, public prosecutor in Port-au-Prince, from whom Delva said he had obtained “a formal promise from the President of the Republic, René Préval, to protect his safety”.
The journalist repeated at a press conference yesterday his conviction that Senator Rudolph Boulos was the man behind the threats made against him. He added that Boulos was the holder of a US passport, despite the fact that the 1987 Haitian Constitution bans dual-nationality.
Delva also suspects the senator, and the police commissioner Daniel Ulysse, of “blocking” the investigation into the 3 April 2000 murder of Jean Dominique, head of Radio Haiti Inter, a case that is being probed by the CIAPEAJ. Delva said the examining magistrate, Fritzner Fils-Aimé had issued a summons which had never been acted upon against Daniel Ulysse, and that Rudolph Boulos refuses to respond to any judicial summons.
20.11.07 - Head of panel set up to help probe murders of journalists flees country after being threatened and followed
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today that a leading Haitian journalist, Joseph Guyler C. Delva, had to leave the country, on 9 November, after getting repeated death threats since 25 October and then being followed.
“The forced departure of a journalist committed to his profession shows the continuing importance of the fight for press freedom in Haiti,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Delva has had to go into self-imposed exile three months after being put in charge of a commission that is mean to combat impunity in cases of murders of journalists.”
The press freedom organisation added: “This episode could not have been more untimely. We express our support for this journalist and his family and we call on the authorities to quickly shed light on the threats and intimidation that led to his hurried departure.”
Delva found himself being followed while driving in Port-au-Prince on the evening of 5 November. He stopped several times to make sure he really was being followed. “When he pulled into a service station to fill up, those following him also stopped,” Reporters Without Borders was told by Jean Wilner Morin, the spokesman of the Independent Commission for Supporting Investigations into Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ), which Delva heads.
“Some of them got out of their vehicle and walked towards Delva’s car,” Morin said. “Very alarmed, Delva set off again in his car and, after seeking help at the Pétion-Ville police station, police officers escorted him home.” On the advice of his family, he decided to leave for the United States for the time being.
The CIAPEAJ was created on 10 August at President René Préval’s initiative with the aim of helping the authorities to combat impunity in a series of murders of journalists in recent years. Reporters Without Borders has been told that Delva’s role at the head of the commission was probably not the sole reason for the threats against him.
The Haiti correspondent of several foreign news media, including the BBC and Reuters, and the host of a news programme on Mélodie FM, a Port-au-Prince radio station, Delva had referred to sensitive issues on the air, including the case a senator who allegedly has dual US and Haitian citizenship, which is illegal under the 1987 constitution.
Delva got two anonymous calls on his mobile phone on 25 October in which he was warned: “You had better watch out, because we know where you are and we are going to get you.”