At least five Haitian reporters, including Kenny Raynald Petitfrere, have fled their homes in Port-au-Prince’s Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood since August 23, 2023, in response to escalating violence. (Photo Credit: Kenny Raynald Petitfrere)

Reporters in Haiti flee gang violence surge in capital’s Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood

Miami, September 6, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday expressed grave concern that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince could put journalists at greater risk than other civilians if they are singled out for their work documenting the situation on the ground.

CPJ has learned that at least five reporters have fled their homes in Port-au-Prince’s Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood in a wave of escalating violence as gangs clashed with police to gain control over the area.

“We are watching with grave concern as the situation in Haiti reaches new levels of bloodshed,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, in São Paulo. “We stand in solidarity with journalists working in Haiti who are covering this horrific crescendo of violence.”

CPJ has confirmed that the violence forced the following journalists to flee their homes in recent weeks and is investigating reports that at least nine other journalists fled the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood over the weekend.

  • Arnold Junior Pierre, a reporter with the local independent broadcaster Radio Télé Galaxie, told CPJ he was forced to flee with 15 relatives on August 23 after gang members invaded his neighborhood of Savane Pistache and set fire to their home.
  • Jacques Desrosiers, secretary general of the Association of Haitian Journalists, told CPJ he was forced to abandon his home on August 31 after gangs entered his neighborhood.
  • Judex Vélima, camera operator for the local independent broadcaster Radio Télé Espace, told CPJ he also escaped with relatives after their home was burned on August 30.
  • Kenny Raynald Petitfrere, president of the Haitian Online Media Association (CMEL), fled his home after receiving death threats, the association told CPJ.
  • Celou Flécher, editor-in-chief of the independent news website Le Facteur, told CPJ he was forced to evacuate his family from their home in Carrefour Feuilles on September 1.  “People are leaving with whatever belongings they can carry and their personal documents,” he told CPJ. While his house had not been burned, “most of the houses are empty. Everyone is living in terror. No one knows when the gangs will appear,” he said.
Clockwise from left: Jacques Desrosiers, Celou Flécher, Arnold Junior Pierre, and Judex Vélima. (Photo Credit: Ministry of Communications, Celou Flécher, Arnold Junior Pierre, and Judex Vélima. )

The Carrefour Feuilles district is located in the heart of the capital and is home to many journalists. Since late July, thousands of residents have fled the area after it came under assault from the powerful Grand Ravine gang led by Renel Destina, known as “Ti Lapli.”  Police are reported to have virtually abandoned the neighborhood after they also came under attack and a police substation was burned down in Savane Pistache.

“We have lived through many dangerous moments in Haiti but nothing ever like this,” CMEL general coordinator, Dieudonné Dantor St Cyr, told CPJ on Monday. “We are exposed to violence and insecurity like the rest of the population. We live among them. We are all at the mercy of the bandits,” he added.

Since Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, the country has become one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. CPJ has documented the killings of nine journalists since 2021, with six confirmed to have been killed in connection with their work. At least six other journalists and media workers have been kidnapped this year amid an unprecedented surge in gang violence, according to CPJ research.