Reporters Without Borders today denounced as "intolerable" nearly 40 attacks on press freedom so far this year by government-sponsored gangs and supporters of opposition activists calling for the resignation of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The violence against media and journalists included automatic-weapon fire against media offices, burning down radio stations, destroying transmitters and threats to kill journalists. "These are the actions of thugs and we call for them to stop," the organisation said.
The local studio in the northern city of Cap-Haitien of the privately-owned Radio Vision 2000, which is critical of the government, was attacked on 7 February by armed men who smashed equipment with hammers before setting fire to the studio. Townspeople were left with little independent news.
More than 20 media outlets, mostly radio stations, have been forced to close, stop broadcasting news or have been threatened since the beginning of the year. Nine media transmitters were put out of action on 13 January when armed men smashed installations at Boutilliers, near Port-au-Prince. A defector from the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party, who gave his name as "Béry," said later the attack had been led by a member of the presidential security force.
Two radio stations were burned in Saint-Marc, northwest of the capital, on 18 January. Thugs opened fire on the studio there of Radio Lumière, which relays news from independent stations, and then tried to burn it down. Owner Louis Jeune Ulysse said government supporters were responsible. The studio of Radio Delta was burned the same day. Three days earlier, opposition supporters had set fire to the studios of Radio Pyramides and Radio America.
Four journalists have been physically attacked and a dozen others threatened since the beginning of the year. Lavalas defector Béry said on 18 January that at a meeting of Lavalas officials the names of four independent media journalists had been added to a list of people to be killed. Marc-Antoine Adolphe, head of radio Tête à Tête, and Gérard Jacques, boss of Radio Atlantik, both in Cap-Haïtien, have been in hiding since last month after receiving threats.