CPJ concerned about recent attacks against journalists

New York, December 2, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about growing threats against Haitian journalists in the wake of anti-government protests in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien that began on November 17 and continue to rattle the country.

On November 21, seven journalists from four private media outlets—including the director and three reporters from the privately owned Radio Etincelle—in Gonaïves, a seaside town northwest of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, went into hiding after receiving menacing telephone calls and verbal threats on the street for covering the Cap-Haïtien protests, said CPJ sources.

That same day, Radio Etincelle suspended broadcasting after militants of the Popular Organization for the Development of Raboteau (commonly known as the “Cannibal Army”), a heavily armed popular group that supports President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, accused the station of “working for the opposition” and threatened to burn down its studio.

Four days later, on the evening of November 25, unidentified assailants set fire to Radio Etincelle’s station, damaging property, including a generator and other equipment.

Meanwhile, on November 28, unidentified attackers opened fire outside a Gonaïves hotel while a local press freedom organization, the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), was meeting with a group of threatened radio correspondents and police officials to discuss how to improve security conditions for journalists. No one was killed in the attack, but it remains unclear how many people may have been injured.

This latest violence comes a year after the murder of journalist Brignolle Lindor, who was hacked to death with machetes by a pro-Aristide mob on December 3, 2001. This case, along with the April 2000 murder of broadcaster Jean Léopold Dominique by an unidentified assassin, has never gone to trial.

“The Haitian government must protect journalists who are working in a volatile environment,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “And because a climate of impunity also contributes to the sense of vulnerability, we call on President Aristide to do everything within his power to bring Brignolle Lindor and Jean Léopold Dominique’s murderers to justice.”