Reporters Without Borders today condemned a shooting attack on an independent radio station in the Haitian capital on 28 October and the threats that forced a provincial radio station off the air the day before, and the organisation called on the government to protect journalists and carry out investigations to establish who was responsible for the violence.
"Once again we ask the Haitian authorities to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by those who attack the news media," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "It is especially worrying that this latest violence follows verbal attacks on the press by government officials and supporters," he said.
In the attack on privately-owned Radio Caraïbes in Port-au-Prince on 28 October, gunmen used automatic weapons to fire on the outside of the building, causing considerable damage to its facade and to the car of the station’s sports reporter, Harold Domond. No one was hurt, however.
Witnesses said the gunmen came in a car with official plates. News editor Jean-Elie Moléus told AFP yesterday that Radio Caraïbes often received threats. The station suspended its broadcast briefly after the attack.
Radio Maxima, a privately-owned station in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, suspended its news programming on 27 October after receiving threats from government supporters, its management said. The station’s director, Jean Robert Lalanne, is a local leader of the opposition, which has been calling for President Aristide’s departure for the past year.
A report posted on the website of the independent Radio Métropole on 22 October said government criticism of the press has been mounting in the past few weeks. The report quoted remarks made the previous day by Prime Minister Yvon Neptune implying that the press did not report the news accurately.
In a ranking of 166 countries worldwide according to respect for press freedom, published by Reporters Without Borders on 20 October, Haiti was placed in 100th position, among the lowest in the western hemisphere. Journalists working for independent news media are often threatened or physically attacked.
Since 2000, some 30 journalists have gone into exile and two have been killed: Jean Dominique, the director of Radio Haïti Inter (on 3 April 2000) and Brignol Lindor of Radio Echo 2000 (on 3 December 2001).