Reporter tells CPJ of ordeal with captors

New York, July 17, 2002—Haitian broadcast journalist Israel Jacky Cantave and his cousin, who went missing on July 15, were found tied and blindfolded by last night on the side of a road.

Cantave, who is known for his in-depth reports on sensitive issues, works for Radio Caraïbes, which is based in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

From the hospital where both men were taken, Cantave, 28, gave the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) an account of what happened to him and his cousin, Frantz Ambroise, after they left the radio station on Monday night.

Cantave said that on the way home, he and his cousin realized that a red jeep was following them. A stop at a gas station failed to shake off their pursuer, and before long another vehicle—a pick-up truck whose color they could not distinguish—banged into their car, forcing them to stop.

When Cantave and Ambroise climbed out of the car, two masked men asked them at gunpoint which of the two was Cantave. When the journalist identified himself, the assailants told him they were going to kill him. Cantave said that there were four armed men in the pick-up truck, but that he could not tell how many were in the jeep. All assailants were masked.

Cantave and Ambroise were then forced into one of the vehicles. The assailants tied the hands of both men, gagged them, blindfolded them, and took them to a house, where they were held for about 24 hours.

Cantave said that he was interrogated, kicked, and beaten repeatedly and that his assailants made him listen to his mother, who was pleading for her son on the Port-au-Prince station Radio Kiskeya. “It’s the last time you’re going to hear your mother’s voice,” the journalist quoted the perpetrators as saying.

Cantave said that it was clear that his assailants were aware and concerned about the fact that a search for the journalist was under way.

Throughout his interrogation, Cantave could hear the cries of Ambroise, who, as it turned out, was beaten repeatedly with a stick.

Both men were then forced back into a car—still blindfolded with their hands tied—and dumped along the side of a road. Passersby heard Cantave’s cries for help and brought them to a local police station, where they were then taken to the hospital.

Cantave said that he thinks his reports on a variety of sensitive subjects for Radio Caraïbes caused the abduction and assault. Asked whether he was apprehensive about returning to work, Cantave said, “Not at all, on the contrary. I’m going to continue to work a lot because I know I do a balanced job.” He added, “I denounce what doesn’t work, and I applaud what does.”

“We are enormously relieved Israel Jacky Cantave and his cousin have been found alive,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “But we remain alarmed at the reprisals endured by journalists who try to inform the public about their country’s state of affairs. We urge Haitian authorities to investigate this attack thoroughly and to see that justice is done.”

In a three-day fact-finding mission to Port-au-Prince last month, a CPJ delegation found that journalists in Haiti face a troubling atmosphere of intimidation and fear. Haitian journalists told CPJ of violent attacks and threats that largely remain unpunished. Some have felt obliged to censor themselves, go into hiding, or even leave the country.

Click here to read yesterday’s alert about Cantave’s abduction.