New York, February 24, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about an increasing number of violent attacks against journalists and radio stations in Haiti in the wake of a rebellion aimed at ousting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

On Saturday, February 21, unidentified gunmen shot Pierre Elisem, director and owner of Radio Hispagnola, in the northern city of Trou du Nord, according to local press reports. A bullet hit Elisem’s neck, paralyzing him as a result, a doctor treating the journalist told CPJ.

Elisem, who also works as a correspondent for the independent Port-au-Prince­based Radio Métropole, was shot twice in the back while driving to the city of Cap-Haïtien, which is now controlled by armed groups opposed to the government.

Elisem began receiving threats after he started broadcasting news from Radio Métropole on Radio Hispagnola in early February, according to Radio Métropole. Pro-government loyalists accused the journalist of working for the opposition, local reporters told CPJ. Alleged supporters of the Lavalas party set Radio Hispagnola on fire on Sunday, according to local press reports.

Other attacks include:

  •   On Sunday, February 22, a group of armed rebels ransacked and torched the offices of the pro-government radio stations Radio Afrika and Radio Télé Kombit in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, according to CPJ sources. Both stations are owned by members of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party.
  •   On Friday, February 20, several foreign correspondents and a local reporter were attacked while covering a student protest in the streets of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, international and local media reported. Claude Bellvue, a reporter with Radio IBO, was slightly injured after alleged pro-government armed groups shot him with a 12-caliber rifle. Carlos Loret, Raúl Guzmán, and Jorge Pliego, a reporter and cameramen, respectively, with the Mexican television station Televisa, and Roberto Andrade, cameraman with Mexico’s TV Azteca, were attacked with machetes, stoned, and chased by a group of angry government supporters, The Associated Press (AP) and Televisa reported. No one was seriously injured.
  •  According to the AP, on February 19, government forces forced an AP Television News cameraman to hand over his tape and made an AP photographer erase pictures from his digital camera.

Haiti has been in turmoil since armed groups that formerly supported President Aristide turned against him and attacked several police stations across the country in early February. The armed groups, which have recently joined forces with former paramilitary leaders convicted of perpetrating human rights abuses, control large parts of the country.

Two privately owned radio stations, Radio Sans-Souci and Radio Cap-Haïtien, have not broadcast since the beginning of February because of constant threats and harassment, a source told CPJ.

Guyler Delva, president of the Association of Haitian Journalists, told CPJ that the situation is becoming increasingly violent, and that both local and foreign journalists are at risk.