More than two weeks after earthquake that devastated Haiti, several community radio stations are still off the air. In the western and southeastern parts of the country, at least 16 stations are facing serious problems that have suspended their broadcasts, Sony Esteus, executive director of SAKS, a local organization of community radio stations, told CPJ. The earthquake obliterated SAKS’ office in the Bourdon neighborhood, east of Port-au-Prince.
Community radio stations play a leading role in local news coverage in Haiti’s most remote communities, filling the void left by private radio stations in the capital. Most of them operate with low power transmission equipment—between 10 and 500 watts. SAKS has a network of around 30 community radio stations throughout Haiti and has made bringing them back into operation its priority.
Esteus, also a 1992 CPJ International Press Freedom awardee and the Caribbean representative of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, said the premises of Radio Fondwa in the city of Jacmel was completely destroyed by the earthquake. No casualties were reported, he said, adding that two Fondwa reporters who were in station’s studio when the earthquake hit escaped unharmed.
In Petit Goave, Radyo Kolf Pye, a community radio station in the town of Value suffered great losses; in Leogane, the facilities of Radio Zetwal Peyizan collapsed, Esteus said. Radio SAKA’s building in Gran Goave was damaged and its staff has reportedly been broadcasting from another location.
Esteus, an experienced radio reporter, worked for Radio Haiti Inter for almost a decade till the station was closed in 2003. During the military coup of September 1991, while he was working as a reporter for radio Tropic FM, he was imprisoned and beaten at the headquarters of the in Port-au-Prince police department, he told CPJ.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been corrected to reflect that Radio SAKA’s premises were only damaged, not destroyed.