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Haíti19 February 2003

Radio suspends news bulletins to protest attacks and threats against its journalists

Reporters Without Borders expressed its great concern today at a 24-hour suspension of news broadcasts by Radio Métropole on 18 March to protest attacks and threats against its journalists.

"The station’s move is a direct and serious result of violations of press freedom," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "We deplore the attacks on its journalists and the threats made to them. The authorities must halt the criminal activities of the armed gangs they use to persecute journalists and dismantle them."

"The government must also urgently give solid assurances for the safety of journalists, arrest those responsible for the attacks and threats - which have become a habit for the head of the Cannibal Army, Amiot Métayer - and allow Haitians to be freely informed by journalists."

The decision by management and staff at Radio Métropole to halt news bulletins was the first time it had taken such a move. It had hitherto preferred not to tell listeners about attacks and threats to it but recent incidents spurred the staff to protest publicly.

Thugs fired shots, shouted insults and threw bottles at the house of Métropole journalist Nancy Roc’s mother late at night on 16 February in the Delmas suburb of Port-au-Prince, not far from the radio station. The night security guard fired back to chase them away. Roc decided to hire an additional security guard for the daytime. She told Reporters Without Borders that thugs had also fired on the house last December before fleeing in a vehicle.

A group of people, apparently Aristide supporters, went to the house of reporter Jean-Numa Goudou in Carrefour, a southwestern suburb of Port-au-Prince, on 14 February and asked to see him. He was not there. They then returned in the middle of the night with various weapons and tried to set fire to the house by burning a car parked in the garage. Neighbours managed to put the fire out.

Roc and Goudou had both covered the so-called "Weekend of Hope" in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien 10 days ago, at which Roc spoke about the Haitian media at the service of democracy.

Last November, the house of Radio Métropole’s editor-in-chief, Louis Marie Achille, was attacked by armed men who shot up his vehicle.

The station’s news editor, François Rotchild Junior, told Reporters Without Borders that threats against the station and efforts to intimidate it had clearly started up again. He said he had been personally threatened on a programme on Radio Guinen by Cannibal Army leader Amiot Métayer, who is close to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party.

Rotchild recently interviewed the justice minister and asked him pointed questions about Métayer, who escaped from prison last August and has since walked the streets freely without being rearrested. The journalist said he took Métayer’s threats very seriously in view of his record.

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