At about 11 p.m. on June 29, 2021, unidentified men riding a motorcycle shot and killed Haitian journalist Diego Charles at the entrance of his home in the Christ-Roi area in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and fled the scene, according to news reports and Jacques Desrosiers, secretary-general of the Association of Haitian Journalists, a local trade group, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
The attackers also shot and killed political activist Marie Antoinette Duclair, who was inside a nearby car after driving Charles home following a meeting that both attended, according to those sources.
Charles worked as a reporter for the privately owned radio and television outlet Radio Vision 2000, the news website Gazette Haïti, and co-founded the news website Larepiblik Magazine, according to those sources and Valéry Numa, an anchor at Radio Vision 2000, who spoke with CPJ over messaging app.
Duclair, a political activist and member of the opposition Matrice Libération party, also co-founded Larepiblik Magazine but no longer worked as a journalist, according to those reports and Numa.
At the time of his death, Charles was investigating several topics for Larepiblik Magazine, including the unsolved 2020 killing of Monferrier Dorval, the president of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, Numa said. Charles’ last article on the website mentioned that the judge in Dorval’s case had been the subject of death threats and assassination attempts “with the total indifference of state authorities.” Numa told CPJ that Dorval’s killing was “hyper-sensitive” in Haiti.
On June 30, Léon Charles, director of the Haitian National Police, said that 15 people had been killed in random shootings amid chaos in reaction to the killing of a police officer earlier that night, including Diego Charles and Duclair, according to those news reports.
Also on June 30, the office of the Prime Minister of Haiti published a statement condemning the “serial killings” that had taken place in the area, and saying that the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the General Director of the National Police had been instructed to take all necessary measures to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.
One of Charles’ colleagues, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal, told CPJ that they thought it was “ridiculous and suspicious” that the police were grouping Charles and Duclair’s deaths along with other killings that night.
“All the authorities want is to lump all the cases together, to treat them all as the same incident, to avoid having to look into possible political motives and political complicity behind the killings of Charles and Duclair,” the colleague said.
The Association of Haitian Journalists published a statement on the killings, which CPJ reviewed, expressing concern that while police had opened an investigation, the association was accustomed to such pronouncements, but they rarely produced results.
CPJ called the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Judicial Police for comment, but the people who answered said they were unable to provide any information.
At a July 1 press conference, Prime Minister Claude Joseph and Charles, the police director, attributed all of the June 29 killings to “Phantom 509,” a group allegedly comprised of current and former National Police officers, who were reacting to the killing of an officer earlier that night, according to press reports.
At that press conference, Charles said that several suspects had been identified, but did not say whether any arrests had been made.
Charles’ comments were condemned by the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, a local rights organization, which said it was “hasty and irresponsible” to link “three different bloody events [which] happened in three different areas, at different times,” according to reports.