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Haiti16 January 2004

Arsonists attack two private radio stations

Reporters Without Borders has condemned arson attacks by opposition supporters against Radio Pyramide and Radio America in the town of Saint-Marc 120 kms north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The international press freedom organisation called on all political groupings to act to reduce tension and respect press freedom.

Opposition activists set fire to the studios of Radio Pyramide on 15 January at the end of an anti-government demonstration in the streets of Saint-Marc. The attackers destroyed equipment and threatened to kill the station’s manager and staff. The manager had to be rescued by police.

The home of prosecutor Freneau Cajuste, who has been accused of persecuting members of the opposition, was also set on fire. The magistrate’s home doubles as the studios of Radio America.

Opposition supporters accuse Radio Pyramide of being close to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party and of broadcasting government propaganda. Several sources suggested the attack might have been carried out by an organisation called Ramicos, in reprisal for an armed attack by supporters of the president on anti-government demonstrators that left three people injured.

Fritson Orius, owner of Radio Pyramide, had also, in several interviews, spoken out against an alleged plot against the radio station. He accused Marc Antoine Adolphe, head of Radio Tête à Tête that was recently shut down by the authorities, of preparing the attack. Adolphe, who now lives in exile in the Dominican Republic, denied the accusation.

Radio Pyramide had only just resumed broadcasting after an earlier sabotage in November 2003. Police arrested Fritson Orius on 14 January after a demonstrator suffered gunshot wounds in front of the station. Orios said he had ordered a guard to shoot in the air to disperse the demonstrators.

A commando of several armed and hooded men destroyed transmitters of eight radio stations and one television of a range of political tendencies on 13 January, forcing them all off the air. Reporters Without Borders condemned the attacks and expressed concern at this new form of censorship.

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