Haitian journalist Romelson Vilcin was killed after a tear gas canister fired by police struck him on the head on October 30, 2022. Vilcin was among at least a dozen journalists gathered outside the Delmas 33 police substation in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to call for the release of detained journalist Robest Dimanche, according to news reports.
Members of the Haitian National Police were beating and firing tear gas at the protesters, including Vilcin, as they tried to enter the station, according to news reports and a statement from a local trade group, the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH). CPJ was not able to immediately determine whether Vilcin was among other journalists who were documenting the protest or if he was participating in the demonstration.
Another journalist at the protest, Raynald Petit-Frère, the president of the Haitian Collective of Online Media, a local journalists’ guild, told local news outlets that he heard the projectile hit Vilcin and saw the journalist fall to the ground. Vilcin remained there for over two hours before police took him to the Bernard Mevs hospital, where he died shortly after, according to those reports.
Vilcin was a correspondent for Génération 80, a radio station based in the northwestern city of Port-de-Paix, and worked with independent online outlets Jim Studio and Zenyez TV, according to the AJH statement.
At least five other journalists were injured during the police response to the protest, and police confiscated equipment from several journalists, according to Jacques Desrosiers, AJH secretary-general, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app and the AJH statement. CPJ was unable to confirm further details about these incidents.
Haiti’s Ministry of Culture and Communication later October 30 wrote on Twitter that the ministry “deplores the drama…at the Delmas 33 Police Station” that led to Vilcin’s death and is “confident that an investigation will be opened to determine the circumstances in order to identify and prosecute the perpetrator or perpetrators of this regrettable act.”
In a note shared with local media outlets and on their Facebook page, Haitian National Police Chief Frantz Elbé expressed sympathy for Vilcin’s death and wrote that “instructions have been passed to the General Inspectorate of the PNH to conduct an investigation into this incident to determine the circumstances” and identify those responsible.
Haitian police did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.