Frantzsen Charles

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Haitian journalists Frantzsen Charles and Tayson Lartigue were shot and killed when a group of journalists was attacked while reporting on gang violence in the Cité Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, at around 3 p.m. on September 11, 2022, according to news reports and Jacques Desrosiers, secretary-general of the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), a local trade group, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

Dieudonné St-Cyr, secretary of the Collective of Online Media (CMEL), an online journalists association, told the Haitian Times in mid-September that the organization was working with Charles’ and Lartigue’s families to try to recover their bodies, but that sources told them that the gang members had burned the reporters’ bodies so it might not be possible to recover them.

Charles, 27, had worked as a reporter for online news outlet FS News Haiti since December 2020, according to an obituary the outlet published and Charles’ personal Facebook profile page. He covered local news, including protests and violence by armed gangs in the capital, according to the Haitian Times, and also previously contributed video reporting to Tele Pam TV, a Haitian-American media outlet based in Miami.

In a post published about Charles on its website on September 13, Tele Pam staff wrote that the outlet “first opened the door for you when you graduated from journalism school” and described him as a “passionate person” with an “unparalleled” love for the profession of journalism.

Charles and Lartigue were among a group of seven journalists who went to Cité Soleil to report on ongoing gang violence in the neighborhood and interview the family of a 17-year-old resident  killed the day before, according to Desrosiers and Haitian news website AyiboPost, which interviewed witnesses in Cité Soleil. The group had finished their interviews and were leaving the neighborhood, with Charles and Lartigue riding on the motorbike in the lead, when they were ambushed in an area called “Dèyè Mi” and shot, according to those sources.

Ricot Librun, one member of the group, told the Haitian Times that he saw “four to five men” that he identified as members of the G9 gang, which operates in the area. One of them opened fire at Charles and Lartigue’s motorcycle, Librun said.

“They were shooting so much, I had to put the bike in reverse and go back to avoid the bullets,” Librun said. “Members of the Ti Gabriel gang who were in the area fired back to push back the G9 members.”

The other five journalists were able to flee to safety and met each other in an area of the neighborhood called “Brooklyn,” where they attempted to call Charles and Lartigue, according to news reports. Librun told the Haitian Times he later learned that Charles and Lartigue had been shot and dragged away by members of the G9 gang, and one of the other journalists in the group told AyiboPost that the attackers seized Charles and Lartigue’s motorcycle and reporting equipment.

The Haitian Times quoted Librun in a separate report as saying that “the team was targeted.” He added, “The bandits allowed a motorcycle taxi driver who was on the road [to] pass before they started shooting.”

Rival armed groups had been engaged in violent confrontations in Cité Soleil for several weeks, Desrosiers told CPJ.

Haitian National Police spokesperson Garry Desrosiers told Spanish news agency EFE that police were “aware that five of the journalists ‘exited with difficulty’ from the location” and that they “had information” that Charles and Lartigue had been killed. He urged journalists to “be careful” when reporting in neighborhoods like Cité Soleil.

CPJ reached out to the Haitian National Police for comment via the contact form on their website but did not receive a response.

Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry posted a series of tweets about the case to his official Twitter account on September 12.

“We are deeply shocked by the news of the assassination of two young journalists: Tayson Latigue and Frantzsen Charles, yesterday Sunday, in Cité-Soleil, in the exercise of their profession. We strongly condemn this barbaric act, while sending our heartfelt thoughts to the families of the victims and their colleagues,” Henry wrote.

“Armed conflicts between rival gangs make it difficult for journalists to work in Haiti,” AJH’s Desrosiers told CPJ. “This is the second time in the year 2022 that journalists have been murdered while working in the field.”