List of press freedom abuses documented by CPJ

Jean Léopold Dominique, Radio Haïti Inter
April 3, 2000

Dominique, 69, the outspoken owner and director of the independent station Radio Haïti Inter, was shot dead by an unknown gunman who also killed the station’s security guard, Jean Claude Louissaint.

Shortly after 6 a.m. on April 3, Dominique arrived at Radio Haïti Inter to host the 7 a.m. news program, according to CPJ sources in Haiti. After Louissaint opened the gate to the station’s premises, which are along the road from Port-au-Prince to the suburb of Pétionville, Dominique parked his car inside. As he was about to enter the radio station, a single gunman entered the compound on foot and shot him seven times.

The gunman then fired two shots at Louissaint before escaping in a Jeep Cherokee that had been waiting for him outside the compound.

The assassin was said to have been spotted near the station before Dominique’s arrival, although his weapon was not visible at that time. Minutes after the attack, Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas, arrived at the station in a separate car and found the wounded bodies of her husband and Louissaint. Both victims died of their wounds in the Haitian Community Hospital in Pétionville.

After questioning more than 80 suspects, including Famni Lavalas senator Dany Toussaint, and ordering six arrests, examining judge Claudy Gassant left Haiti for the United States in January 2002 saying he had received inadequate protection from threats.

Though not officially accused, FL senator Dany Toussaint is widely suspected of masterminding Dominique’s murder in reprisal for an October 1999 editorial that criticized him sharply.

On March 21 2003, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, who replaced Gassant, sent a 33-page indictment to prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis accusing Dymsley Millien, Jeudi-Jean Daniel, Philippe Markington, Ralph Léger, Ralph Joseph, and Freud Junior Desmarattes of the killing.

On April 3, Michèle Montas, Dominque’s widow, appealed the indictments, saying that the investigation into her husband’s killing was “incomplete,” and that the indictments “failed to charge the masterminds behind the murder.” On August 3, the Court of Appeals ordered a new investigation into the murder and released three of the six accused of perpetrating the killing: Freud Junior Desmarattes, Ralph Léher and Ralph Joseph. A new examining magistrate will carry out a new investigation.

Lilianne Pierre-Paul, Radio Kiskeya
Radio Kiskeya
January 9, 2001
Pierre-Paul, co-owner and program director of the independent Port-au-Prince station Radio Kiskeya, was threatened by Paul Raymond, leader of the religious organization “Ti Kominote Legliz”, during a press conference.

That same day, an unidentified individual tried to set Radio Kiskeya’s offices on fire.

Raymond’s organization supports the ruling Lavalas Family party. During his remarks at the press conference, Raymond read names from a list of people who he claimed were planning to form a shadow government.

The list included Pierre-Paul. Raymond gave those mentioned three days to distance themselves from the alleged plot, threatening violence should they not comply.

During his remarks, Raymond said Pierre-Paul’s name belonged on the list because she always referred to the lawmakers who won a seat in the controversial May 2000 parliamentary elections as “contested deputies.”

Pierre-Paul told CPJ that at 7 p.m. that same evening, staff members found a gallon of gasoline in a plastic bag in the station’s courtyard. Gasoline had also been poured on the ground.

A security guard and some neighbors later claimed to have seen someone running away from the offices just before the gasoline was discovered. The next day, a match was found stuck in the gate.
Local police declined to investigate the incident because there was no actual fire.

Pierre-Paul told CPJ that she received death threats on a weekly basis, mostly by mail. In insulting terms, the anonymous letters accused Pierre-Paul of corruption.

Roosevelt Benjamin, Signal FM
June 9, 2001
Benjamin, news director at the radio station Signal FM, based in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétionville, received a series of telephone threats after a June 9 broadcast of his weekly political talk show “Moment Vérité” (Moment of Truth).

Benjamin told CPJ that one hour after his program, he received an anonymous call on his cell phone. “I see you are meddling in affairs that are none of your business,” the caller said. “But we can force you to be silent.”

Five minutes later, the same man called again, this time telling Benjamin that he knew where the journalist lived and what car he drove. The next day at around 5 p.m., Benjamin received similar threats from a different caller. After the program was rebroadcast on the night of June 11, Benjamin received another, apparently threatening, call in which the caller remained silent.

All four calls were made with a prepaid phone card, Benjamin said, making it impossible for him to identify the callers.

Benjamin believes that he was threatened for stating, during his June 9 broadcast, that a recently launched political organization called the Majority Civil Society Movement (“Mouvement de la Société Civile Majoritaire”) was dominated by the relatives of senators from the ruling Lavalas Family.

On June 13, CPJ wrote a letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide expressing its profound concern over the threats.

Brignolle Lindor, Radio Echo 2000 KILLED
December 3, 2001
A machete-wielding mob murdered Lindor, news director of the private station Radio Echo 2000, based in the coastal town of Petit-Goâve, some 40 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

At 11 a.m., Lindor and a colleague were driving to one of Lindor’s other jobs, as a customs official. Their car was ambushed by supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party.

Lindor’s colleague fled, but Lindor was attacked and killed after he tried to take refuge in the nearby home of a local town counselor.

Lindor hosted the political talk show “Dialogue.” He had received numerous threats from local authorities for inviting members of the 15-party opposition coalition Democratic Convergence (CD) to appear on his show.

After Aristide launched a “zero tolerance” anti-crime campaign in June, implying that street criminals caught red-handed could be summarily punished without trial, Petit-Goâve deputy mayor Dumé Bony announced in public that the “zero tolerance” policy should be applied to Lindor.

Meanwhile, opposition parties and human rights groups accused Aristide of issuing a carte blanche for extrajudicial executions.

Lindor’s December 11 funeral turned violent when police used bludgeons and tear gas on fdmourners who were shouting anti-Aristide slogans, according to wire reports.

In this case, 10 men belonging to a popular organization known as “Domi Nam Bwa (Asleep in the Woods) have been indicted, and two have been arrested. At this time only one of the accused, Maxi Zéphyr, remains in prison. No trials dates have been set.

Roosevelt Benjamin, Signal FM Evelyne Dacelus, Signal FM Carl Dieudonné, Signal FM Jean-Claudy Saint-Cyr, Signal FM
January 22, 2002
Signal FM journalists Benjamin, Dacelus, Dieudonné, and Saint-Cyr were traveling in the radio’s staff bus, clearly marked as a Signal FM vehicle, to cover a conference in southern Haiti when the driver of a car from the president’s National Palace attempted to run the bus off the road and aimed a machine gun at the passengers, said Benjamin.

The bus driver then lost control of the vehicle and crashed into another car. The man driving the National Palace car left the scene after the accident. The journalists were not injured and returned to Signal FM to report the incident, said Benjamin. He told CPJ that the National Palace car appeared to have been waiting for them.

That evening, the National Palace Press Service issued a communiqué calling the alleged attack on the reporters “pure invention” and denied that the vehicle and the driver were from the palace. Two days later, however, in response to protests from Haitian media and human rights associations, National Palace spokesperson Jacques Maurice called Signal FM and acknowledged the attack.

According to Signal FM and several witnesses, Franz Gabriel, who is also President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s helicopter pilot, was seen driving the National Palace car during the attack.

Esdras Mondélus, Radio Étincelle Henry Fleurimond, Radio Étincelle Renais Noël Jeune, Radio Étincelle Jean Niton Guérino, Radio Étincelle Gédéon Présandieu, Radio Étincelle René Josué, Signal FM Jean-Robert François, Radio Métropole Guyler Delva, Association of Haitian Journalists
November 21, 2002
Journalists from four privately owned media outlets– Mondélus, Jeune, Présandieu, and Guérino of Radio Étincelle; Fleurimond of Radio Kiskeya; Josué of Signal FM; and François from Radio Métropole– based in Gonaïves, a seaside town northwest of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, went into hiding after receiving menacing telephone calls and verbal threats for covering opposition protests in Gonaïves and the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, CPJ sources said.

Reporters told CPJ that the threats came from a pro-Aristide group that was angered by the journalists’ coverage of both a student march in Gonaïves and a massive opposition rally in Cap-Haïtien that drew thousands.

The attack came after the station had suspended broadcasting on November 21 in the face of threats from militants of the Popular Organization for the Development of Raboteau, a heavily armed populist group commonly known as the “Cannibal Army.” The group accused the station of “working for the opposition” and threatened to burn the station’s studio, CPJ sources said.

The militants were angered over the station’s coverage of both a student march in Gonaïves and an opposition rally in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien that drew thousands.
Later that month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued “precautionary measures” on behalf of the seven journalists that essentially call on the Haitian government to guarantee the journalists’ safety. According to Joseph Guyler Delva, secretary general of the Haitian Journalists Association (AJH), the government did not respond. In February 2003, the radio journalists, with the exception of Mondélus, fled the country fearing for their lives.

November 25, 2002
Unidentified assailants set fire to Radio Étincelle’s studio, damaging a generator and other equipment. The station’s director and owner, as well as three of its reporters, went into hiding. The attack came after the station had suspended broadcasting on November 21 in the face of threats from militants of the Popular Organization for the Development of Raboteau, a heavily armed populist group commonly known as the “Cannibal Army.” The group accused the station of “working for the opposition” and threatened to burn the station’s studio, CPJ sources said. The militants were angered over the station’s coverage of both a student march in Gonaïves and an opposition rally in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien that had drawn thousands.

Michèle Montas, Radio Haïti-Inter
December 25, 2002

At around 5:30 p.m., a few minutes after Montas, news director of Port-au-Prince­based Radio Haïti-Inter, had returned to her home in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, 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. Neither Montas nor the second bodyguard was injured in the attack.

Montas is the widow of Jean Léopold 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 since then, anchoring the daily newscast.

As the gunmen fled on foot, police cordoned off the area outside Montas’ house to investigate. At year’s end, no arrests had been made. Montas has criticized the slow investigation into her husband’s killing.

On January 8 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted Montas precautionary measures, asking the Haitian government to take the necessary actions to protect her personal integrity and to investigate the attacks against her.

On February 22, Radio Haïti-Inter stopped broadcasting because of constant threats and harassment. Since then, Montas and journalists Jean Roland Chery, Immacula Placide, Guerlande Eloi, Pierre Emmanuel and Gigi Dominique have left Haiti and are living in exile.

Jean-Numa Goudou, Radio MétropoleATTACKED
February 14, 2003

A group of alleged government supporters tried to set fire to the house of Goudou, a political reporter with Port-au-Prince-based Radio Métropole, by burning a vehicle parked in his garage. No one was injured.

At around 12 p.m., the group visited Goudou’s house in Carrefour, a southwestern suburb of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and asked to see him. But the political reporter, who also works for the news agency Haiti Press Network, was not there. The group returned late that night and burned a car parked in his garage. Neighbors managed to put out the fire.

Radio Métropole news director François Rothschild told CPJ that most of the station’s reporters had received threats weeks before the attack. In protest, Radio Métropole staged an information blackout on Tuesday, February 18, and did not broadcast. About a month after the attack, Goudou left Haiti and is now living in exile.

Lilianne Pierre-Paul, Radio Kiskeya THREATENED
April 30, 2003

Pierre-Paul, co-owner and program director of the independent Port-au-Prince-based Radio Kiskeya, received a threatening letter containing a 12 mm bullet cartridge demanding that she read a statement on the air calling on France to pay Haiti US$21.7 million to compensate for the amount that Haiti paid the French government in 1938 for recognition of Haiti’s independence.

According to CPJ sources, the letter was signed by pro-government militias including the “Cannibal Army” and “Domi Nan Bwa,” which are close to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party. The militias are the most visible threats to journalists in Haiti, continuously harassing and intimidating members of the media and accusing them of “working for the opposition.”

Pierre-Paul said she has received death threats since 2001, mostly by mail. The letters, usually anonymous, accuse Pierre-Paul of corruption and working for the opposition.

Police said they were investigating the threats but have not made any arrests. Pierre-Paul was offered police protection, but she refused. “I want to walk freely and do my job without any interference. I won’t be able to do it with a bodyguard protecting me,” she said.

On January 9, 2001, Pierre-Paul received threats during a press conference. Paul Raymond, leader of the pro-Fanmi Lavalas religious organization Ti Kominote Legliz, read names from a list of people he claimed were planning to form a shadow government. The list included Pierre-Paul. Raymond gave those mentioned three days to distance themselves from the alleged plot, threatening violence if they did not comply.

That same day, an unidentified individual tried to set Radio Kiskeya’s offices on fire. In September 2002, the station was forced to go off the air after receiving information that unidentified individuals were going to burn it down.

Jean Louis Kenson, Signal FM
Calas Alex, Radio Lakansyèl
Joel Deriphonse, Kadans FM
Joseph Desrameaux, Radio Phare

July 12, 2003

Kenson, Alex, Deriphonse and Desrameaux–journalists from four privately owned radio stations in Port-au-Prince– were injured when supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide threw rocks, disrupting a meeting of 184 civil society groups that were gathered to discuss social problems in Haiti.

Around 300 people, representing labor, business and human rights groups, had scheduled a meeting in the Aristide stronghold of Cite Soleil to discuss the deteriorating political and economic situation in Haiti, according to local press reports.

The civil society groups started a motorcade from the airport. While entering Cité Soleil they encountered more than 1,000 Aristide partisans, who tried to block the caravan and threw rocks at the passing vehicles.

As a result of the attack two of the journalists were hospitalized. Desrameaux suffered head injuries, and Alex had two broken ribs. Both of them were released after receiving treatment for their wounds, Guyler Delva secretary general of the Association of Haitian Journalists, told CPJ.