CPJ urges vigorous investigation into the death of a reporter

New York, April 7, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today urged Haitian and United Nations authorities to conduct a vigorous investigation into the shooting of a Haitian reporter who died this week from injuries suffered while observing a clash between UN troops and members of the disbanded Haitian military in the city of Petit-Goâve.

Robenson Laraque, a reporter with the private radio station Tele Contact, died Monday in a Cuban hospital, The Associated Press reported. Laraque was wounded on March 20 during a confrontation that began after the ex-soldiers occupied the police station in the southwestern city. The AP reported that three people, including a Sri Lankan peacekeeper, died in the gun battle.

Laraque and several colleagues were observing the confrontation from the nearby balcony of Tele Contact’s offices, when the journalist was struck by two shots to the head and neck, the AP said. Laraque was taken to a hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, where he received initial care. The injuries were so severe that he was transferred to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, and later to Cuba.

Wilner Saint-Preux, a journalist for Tele Contact, told CPJ that Laraque and other station reporters were trying to cover the skirmish. Witnesses reported that the shots appeared to have been fired by UN peacekeepers, Saint-Preux said. Fritz Ariel Nelson, a Tele Contact editor, said witnesses reported that Laraque was holding a microphone at the time.

David Beer, the UN Civilian Police Commissioner in Haiti, told CPJ that the incident is under investigation. “We take this very seriously,” he said in a telephone interview. “We are trying to determine what happened and which side the bullet came from. As soon as we have the results, we will make them public.”

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti operates under a UN mandate that grants it the authority to “ensure a secure and stable environment within which the constitutional and political process in Haiti can take place” and to “protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.”

“We mourn the loss of our colleague Robenson Laraque,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said today. “We urge Haitian transitional authorities and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti to conduct thorough investigations and make their findings public.”