Unidentified attackers shot and killed Haitian journalist Dumesky Kersaint on April 16, 2023, in Carrefour, a suburb of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Kersaint reported on a wide range of issues, including gang activity, for the online media outlet Radio-Télé INUREP. Multiple people told CPJ that they believed he was killed in retaliation for that coverage.
Fabien Iliophène, the rector of INUREP University, which founded Radio-Télé INUREP, told CPJ that Kersaint was killed while reporting on the murder of a man earlier that morning in Carrefour, an area hotly contested by rival gangs and the police.
“Kersaint got word [of the killing] and immediately went there,” Iliophène told CPJ. Witnesses told the university that Kersaint was photographing the crime scene when an unidentified man approached him and demanded he delete those photos.
“He refused so they shot him,” Iliophène said.
Kersaint was shot three times, including once in the head. Video obtained by CPJ showed Kersaint laying in a pool of blood close to the corpse of an unidentified man.
“They were not killed at the same time. Kersaint arrived because he heard there had been a shooting in the area and he was nearby,” Iliophène told CPJ.
Radio-Télé INUREP news director Jacques-Antoine Bazile told CPJ that he also believed Kersaint was killed in retaliation for his work.
“It was a deliberate and planned crime,” he said. “It’s possible that he wanted to film the murder scene and, not wanting to give the camera away to nullify any possible trace of evidence, he was executed.”
Kersaint’s camera, phone, and wallet were also stolen. One person who knew Kersaint well told CPJ that they believed the death was relation for his work, and not a robbery.
“This was not a theft. This was not because they wanted to steal his camera. It was a hit. They killed him on purpose,” they said.
Heavily armed gangs have taken control of large parts of the capital since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021. From January to March 2023, more than 1,600 people have been reported killed, injured, or kidnapped, a nearly 30% increase compared with the last three months of 2022.
Kris-la, leader of the Ti Bois gang in Carrefour, said in an audio clip distributed via WhatsApp that he was not connected to the killing and identified a member of the Carrefour police whom he alleged was part of a corruption scheme and had shot the journalist.
One security expert with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told CPJ that there was “a total erosion of credibility and confidence” in the Carrefour police, with residents seeing them as “a rogue set” who “often act as bad as the gang members.”
Local news outlets have frequently covered alleged police corruption in Carrefour. Human rights groups have also alleged collusion between members of the Haitian National Police and gang leaders.
CPJ called and emailed the Haitian National Police and the country’s police union seeking comment, but did not receive any replies. CPJ also called and emailed the Carrefour police but did not receive any response.
Kersaint’s relatives told CPJ in August 2023 they had not been contacted by authorities since collecting the journalist’s body from the morgue. They said they had no knowledge whether any official investigation took place.
“Sadly, the security conditions in Carrefour today do not favor the pursuit of an inquiry,” Iliophène told CPJ. “As far as we know, the police have done nothing.”
“There was a police station near the house, they knew him well,” said one of Kersaint’s relatives, who shared a house with him and is now looking after the journalist’s two-year-old daughter. “He was a journalist who loved his job, but in Haiti the good people never last long. Freedom of press doesn’t exist. There is no rule of law, and no justice for journalists.”
Kersaint, 31, was a founding member of Radio-Télé INUREP, which has a staff of about 25, according to Bazile.
“He was working in student communications and we recruited him when he graduated. He was very talented and he had a great future ahead of him. We miss him greatly,” Bazile told CPJ.
“He was highly motivated. He ate journalism, he danced journalism. He never stopped reporting. He lived and breathed it, it was his entire life. That’s why we hired him,” Iliophène said.
Kersaint was born into a low-income family, and his relatives described being immensely proud of his work as a journalist. One said, “it’s because he did his job with passion and in a professional manner which caused him to die.”