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Haïti5 May 2003

Death threats to journalist "very worrying"

Reporters Without Borders said today it was "very worried" about death threats made to leading Haitian journalist Liliane Pierre-Paul, programme chief and news show presenter on Radio Kiskeya.

A letter arrived at the radio station on 30 April containing a 12 mm cartridge and a written demand for her to read each day for the next week a statement calling for France to pay Haiti an indemnity of $21.7 billion, the sum President Jean-Bertrand Aristide recently asked France to pay to compensate for the 90 million francs indemnity it imposed on Haiti in 1838 in exchange for recognition of Haiti’s independence. The letter also threatened to attack French citizens.

"These threats to one of the most prominent figures in the privately-owned media are extremely serious, especially because of the general climate of impunity in the country," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Since the threats seem to come from organisations considered close to the ruling Lavalas party, we will hold the authorities responsible before the world if anything happens to her," he said.

The letter Pierre-Paul got bore the names of the grassroots organisations Domi Nan Bwa, Cercueil, Bale Wouze, Bœuf, Pilate and Tête-ciel. The first three are close to Fanmi Lavalas and Domi Nan Bwa claimed responsibility for the December 2001 murder in the southwestern town of Petit-Goâve of radio station Echo 2000 journalist Brignol Lindor after opposition figures had taken part in programme he hosted. Reporters Without Borders considers these groups that threaten journalists to be unofficial armed militias with the job of targeting government critics and opponents.

Pierre-Paul also received death threats in January 2001, when two pro-Aristide grassroots leaders, Paul Raymond and René Civil, called for her elimination because her name was on a list of what they claimed were members of a planned opposition-backed government. Radio Kiskeya itself has been threatened several times. The station was forced to suspend broadcasting last September after it got word that someone intended to burn it down.

Nearly 30 Haitian journalists have fled abroad in the past three years after being threatened by Aristide supporters and two journalists have been murdered. As a result, Aristide has been put on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of 42 predators of press freedom

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