Garry Tesse

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

 Haitian journalist Garry Tesse was on his way to the Radio Lebon FM station, where he hosted a program, in the southern city of Les Cayes when he disappeared on October 18, 2022. His mutilated remains were found six days later, face down on the seashore close to downtown. Photographs of his body, reviewed by CPJ, showed signs of severe torture: burn marks, a cut-out tongue, and a missing eye and testicles.

Authorities opened a murder investigation into his death, presided over by a local judge. But the circumstances of Tesse’s death have remained shrouded in mystery since one of the principal suspects was released from jail in December 2023, leading to accusations of a cover-up by local press advocacy group SOS Journalistes.

Tesse, who was 39 when he died, was a vocal critic of political and judicial corruption on his midday radio show, “Gran Lakou” (Creole for “Big Yard”), on Radio Lebon FM. He was especially critical of Les Cayes’ powerful prosecutor, Government Commissioner Ronald Richemond, who has come under scrutiny for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

Shortly before his death, Tesse had gone on radio to denounce what he said was a plot by Richemond to have him killed after he was tipped off by a friend who was a former member of the prosecutor’s security team, according to two investigations of the case by the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) as well as SOS Journalistes. CPJ has reviewed the unpublished RNDDH report.

Richemond also tried to bribe the journalist to stop his criticism, according to the journalist’s family members and lawyer, Antony Cyrion. “He sent people to try to negotiate a bribe, to shut him up,” Cyrion, told CPJ. “Gary Tesse was killed to silence a voice that spoke for the people,” said Cyrion.

After Tesse’s death, local journalists organized protests calling for justice. One of his co-hosts, radio journalist Guerlan Hyppolite, told CPJ he was also threatened and offered bribes when he spoke on the radio about Tesse’s murder. Hyppolite said that when he kept speaking out, he was arrested and jailed for a year as a suspect in the murder of his friend. He was released in December 2023 after the judge found no evidence linking him to the murder.

In June 2023, the Tesse family went before the judge handling the investigation, Robert Jourdain, and accused Richemond of ordering the murder. They named two members of Richemond’s security team as the actual killers. One was arrested and then let out of jail in late December last year on what SOS Journalistes claimed was a fabricated release order.

The judge in the case has requested extra security protection due to the threats he has received, according to several sources who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality and safety concerns.

CPJ contacted Richemond for comment via phone and messaging app but did not receive any replies.