Gunmen attack radio station director

New York, December 27, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is shocked by the Christmas day attack on the home of Michèle Montas, news director of Port-au-Prince-based Radio Haïti-Inter. A bodyguard was killed in the apparent assassination attempt.

Montas is the widow of Jean Dominique, a renowned journalist and radio station owner, who was gunned down at Radio Haïti-Inter on April 3, 2000. Montas has run the station ever since, serving as anchor of the daily newscast.

Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, a few minutes after Montas returned from a Christmas lunch to her home in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Price, two heavily armed gunmen appeared on foot. As the assailants tried to enter her home, two security guards shut the gate. The gunmen then opened fire, killing security guard Maxim Séide, 26, who died at the scene. Neither Montas, nor the second bodyguard, was injured in the attack.

As the gunmen fled on foot, police cordoned off the area outside Montas’ house to investigate. No arrests have been made at this time.

The attack came a few days before Judge Bernard Saint-Vil is expected to announce the completion of his investigation into Dominique’s murder, which has been suffered numerous setbacks, including the resignation of two judges. Montas has been unsparing in her criticism of the slowness of the investigation into her husband’s killing, and of attacks against the Haitian press.

Montas believes she was the intended target of an assassination attempt. She told CPJ that she had asked her driver to take a different route back to her house on Christmas day. “It was intuition,” she added. Montas said she has not received any recent threats, but “I feel that my life is in danger.”

Judge Saint-Vil, who has been carrying out the investigation, recently announced that his inquiry will be completed by the end of the year. The case will then go to prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis, who will have five days to ask for any information from the judge.

“We condemn this cowardly attack against our colleague Michèle Montas, and mourn the death of her bodyguard Maxim Séide,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “This assassination attempt only confirms our view that it is open season on journalists in Haiti. The government of President Jean-Bertand Aristide must be held accountable.”