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Haiti22 December 2003

Reporters Without Borders condemns attacks on pro-government media

Reporters Without Borders has strongly condemned attacks against the pro-government radio stations, Radio Solidarité and Pyramide.

"It is particularly worrying that the press which is generally the target of pro-government supporters should now be attacked by members of the opposition, said Robert Ménard, secretary general of the international press freedom organisation.

"Even if these acts of violence are far less common that those attributed to pro-government agents, it does not make them any the less disgraceful". "The use of violence against the media, whoever carries it out, is unjustifiable and unacceptable," he said.

Demonstrators calling for the resignation of President Aristide attacked a team from Radio Solidarité on 17 December, because of its pro-government editorial line. One of those attacked, Alexis Eddy Jackson, was beaten and his tape recorder was destroyed. Demonstrators also stoned one of the radio station’s vehicles.

Pro-opposition demonstrators marching near the station on 11 December had previously threatened to destroy it. The station boss, Venel Remarais, said the station management took the decision to suspend broadcasts for six hours on 13 December because of new threats.

Elsewhere, opponents of President Aristide ransacked the offices of the commercial station Pyramide, at Saint-Marc, north of Port-au-Prince, on 11 November. Marc Antoine Aldorphe, head of radio Tête à tête, a rival station in Saint-Marc, was reportedly among the attackers.

Pyramide is believed to be suspected by its rival of denouncing it to the national telecommunications council (the public body that oversees the allocation and use of radio frequencies). The attack came just a few hours after the town’s legal authorities had seized the transmitter and two microphones from Tête à tête and sealed the station’s offices, on the grounds that it was broadcasting without permission. In his broadcasts, the radio’s boss Marc Antoine Aldorphe, criticised those close to the government. He also criticised Pyramide for its pro-government stance.

In a statement on 18 December, Reporters Without Borders condemned the violence and threats against some 15 journalists working for eight media critical of the government. The statement also denounced calls to violence issued by deputies of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party against members of the opposition and the press.

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