73 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 27,750 sq. km.
Languages: Creole, French
Head of state: René Préval, since May 2006
There has been a fall in attacks against the media since 2006 although threats to safety persist. Despite some progress, impunity remains the rule in some major cases of murders of journalists.
Relative political stability has gradually returned since the start of the René Préval’s second term as president. But this stability is still fragile, including in the area of personal safety. Three journalists were murdered in 2007: photographer Jean-Rémy Badiau in Port-au-Prince, Radio-Télé Provinciale manager and programme host Alix Joseph in Gonaives, and Caraïbes FM presenter François Latour in the capital. The courts did however make some progress in these cases, as it did in arresting and convicting some of those involved in the murder of Jacques Roche, arts and culture editor of the daily Le Matin, who was kidnapped in the capital on 10 July 2005 and was found dead four days later.
Most of these murders were linked to an upsurge in violent crime and kidnappings for ransom, now largely reined in thanks to the dismantling of several gangs with help from the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Aside from a few cases of violence and police brutality, the Haitian press has since January 2008 been free of the kinds of attacks that were common in the past.
The recent past continues to weigh heavily on the present. An Independent Commission for Supporting Investigations into the Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ), set up by President Préval himself in 2007, played a key role in getting things moving in the case of Brignol Lindor, a young journalist with Radio Echo 2000 who was brutally slashed and stoned to death in Petit-Goâve on 3 December 2001. After six years of judicial inaction, two accomplices were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Petit-Goâve court of assizes. Seven other defendants who were convicted in absentia were later found but never arrested. Former Petit-Goâve town hall officials believed to have ordered the killing have meanwhile never been questioned by police or judicial investigators.
More serious still is the paralysis in the past decade’s other big media case, the murder of Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Dominique. Very close to Préval during his previous term as president, Dominique was shot dead outside the radio station along with security guard Jean-Claude Louissaint on 3 April 2000. This politically charged case experienced yet another setback in March 2009 with the sacking of the sixth investigative judge in the case, Fritzner Fils-Aimé, on suspicion of corruption. To date, only one suspect, who was arrested in August 2007, has been held in custody in connection with the case.
The Spanish judicial authorities revived their investigation into the death of Spanish TV reporter Ricardo Ortega in Port-au-Prince on 7 March 2004, a week after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country as armed rebels were approaching the capital. Employed by Antena 3, a privately-owned Spanish TV station, Ortega was killed during clashes between Aristide supporters and opponents, but it was suspected he may have been shot by US members of the Multinational Interim Force that was sent to Haiti the day after Aristide’s departure. In a political goodwill gesture, the Spanish government declassified information about the case on 23 January 2009.