Miami, September 24, 2019 — Haitian authorities should immediately undertake a swift and credible investigation into the shooting of journalist Chery Dieu-Nalio and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, Senator Jean Marie Ralph Féthière fired a pistol into a crowd of demonstrators near the Senate building in Port-au-Prince, the capital, hitting Dieu-Nalio, an Associated Press photographer, in the face with a bullet fragment, according to a report by The Associated Press and other news reports.
Dieu-Nalio was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for his injuries and released, and plans to return to have a bullet fragment removed from his jaw, according to the AP report and a Facebook post by the journalist.
In an interview with local broadcaster Radio Méga following the incident, Féthière said he had been “attacked by violent militant groups” and denied having shot the gun, but also said he acted in self-defense, saying he did not know a journalist had been in the crowd, according to local reports.
“For a politician to open fire on a crowd and then express surprise when a journalist is injured is sickening and alarming,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Haitian authorities need to investigate the shooting of Chery Dieu-Nalio and hold Senator Jean Marie Ralph Féthière accountable for this careless and dangerous incident.”
Dieu-Nalio was wearing a vest marked with the word “Press” at the time he was shot, as seen in the video aired by Juno7. Leon Leblanc, a Senate security guard, was also injured in the incident, according to The Associated Press.
Dieu-Nalio was on assignment at the Senate to cover the parliamentary session scheduled to approve Fritz-William Michel’s nomination as prime minister, according to The Associated Press. Opposition demonstrators confronted Féthière, a member of the governing party, and accused of selling his vote to support Michel, according to that report.
In an emailed statement to CPJ, Féthière said that he fired his gun into the air in self defense with the aim of dispersing the crowd, and said he felt he was about to be attacked by protesters, who had thrown projectiles at his car. He maintained that he did not fire directly at anyone.
“I deeply regret this unfortunate incident,” Féthière said, and added that authorities are investigating the incident and will issue a ballistics report that will be used to determine who was responsible for the injuries sustained by members of the crowd.
CPJ called the Judicial Police for comment, but that call went unanswered.
[Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include Féthière’s response to CPJ.]