Armed off-duty police officers protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on February 23, 2020. People identifying themselves as police officers committed an arson attack against local broadcaster Radio Télévision Caraïbes. (AP/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Haitian outlet Radio Télévision Caraïbes targeted with arson attack during police protest

February 26, 2020 4:20 PM ET

Miami, February 26, 2020 -- Haitian authorities should conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into an arson attack on the offices of Radio Télévision Caraïbes and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On the afternoon of February 23, a group of masked individuals armed with guns claiming to be members of the Haitian National Police attacked the premises of Radio Télévision Caraïbes, a privately owned radio and television outlet, in Port-au-Prince, the capital, setting several vehicles on fire, smashing windows, and breaking broadcasting equipment in the station, according to local media reports and a statement by the broadcaster.

The attack came amid a protest staged by the Haitian National Police for better pay and working conditions, which saw demonstrating officers fire their weapons into the air and vandalize government property, according to news reports. The broadcaster’s statement said that the arsonists were “claiming to be part” of the police protest.

Marc Anderson Bregard, director of programming at the broadcaster, told CPJ in a phone interview that no one was hurt in the incident.

“Haitian authorities must thoroughly investigate whether agents from the Haitian National Police were involved in the attack against Radio Télévision Caraïbes and ensure that the perpetrators face justice,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Journalists are already subject to high levels of violence in Haiti. The possibility that police agents might be behind this criminal attack should sound the alarm that the press face grave threats that the government has failed to address.”

Bregard said that the outlet was covering the protests live when the group entered the premises and set fires inside, which forced them to stop broadcasting.

He told CPJ that the director of the national police, Normil Rameau, told the station that an investigation would be conducted into the attack. Bregard said the outlet is now back on the air.

CPJ called the Haiti National Police for comment, and was referred to the number of the Port-au-Prince police station. The agent who took the call said that an investigation had been started into this incident.

In November 2019, CPJ and Reporters Without Borders wrote a letter to Haitian authorities encouraging them to investigate attacks against journalists.

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