New York, March 8, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) mourns the loss of a Spanish television journalist killed yesterday afternoon when gunmen opened fire on demonstrators in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The demonstrators were calling for the prosecution of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A U.S. photographer was also wounded in the incident.
Ricardo Ortega, 37, correspondent for the Spanish television station Antena 3, was shot twice in the chest, according to international press reports. Ortega was taken to Canape Vert Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where he died an hour later.
Michael Laughlin, 37, a photographer with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.based daily Sun Sentinel was hit in his face, neck, and shoulder. He was evacuated from Haiti and flown to a hospital at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Laughlin is in stable condition and expected to be transferred today to a Miami hospital, the Sun Sentinel reported.
According to international press reports, the crowd was dispersing when shots were fired from different directions on the central Champs de Mars plaza. When gunfire erupted, a group of journalists and demonstrators took refuge in the courtyard of a nearby house. Gunmen standing on the roof or on a balcony fired into the courtyard, the Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald reported.
Witnesses said they saw Aristide supporters start the shooting, according to The Associated Press. Four Haitians were killed and dozens were injured during the incident.
Ortega began his career working for the Spanish news agency EFE in Moscow. As correspondent for Antena 3, he covered armed conflicts in Chechnya, Sarajevo, and Afghanistan. Ortega also covered the September 11 attacks in New York City, his last posting as a correspondent. He was on a leave of absence in New York when he offered to cover the Haiti crisis for Antena 3.