Campaign for Freedom of Expression


Campaign for Freedom of Expression. Haiti is a dangerous place to be a journalist. For decades, the press has been at times stifled, at other times divided; and at all times, journalists and news organizations from every point on the political spectrum have faced threats and violence.

During the Duvalier period, attempts at establishing an independent press were crushed; when Aristide returned from exile in 1994, many journalists believed that a new era of independent reporting would be possible.

While there was something of an explosion of journalism, it was intensely politicized. Newspapers and radio and TV stations affiliated themselves with political parties, and were accordingly targeted by gangs from each side. Radio journalists were most at risk — since more than half of Haiti’s population is illiterate, radio is the primary medium, with some 250 stations broadcasting in Haiti. Studios and transmitters were destroyed, and journalists were beaten and killed.

Since Aristide went into exile again in 2004, Reporters Without Borders has noted that press freedoms have improved, though other analysts have qualified this by adding that those media sympathetic to Aristide and the Lavalas Family party have become targets. In sections of the country controlled by illegal armed groups, there is no media coverage to speak of, and where there are media outlets, self-censorship is common. In this volatile environment, the simple fact that the press continues to report on Haiti is a testament to its dedication and endurance.

The Association of Haitian Journalists, headed by Guyler Delva, a former Voice of America correspondent, has played a prominent role in highlighting human rights abuses against journalists and financing legal actions against those responsible. In August 2005, it called for a day without news broadcasts to protest a communiqué issued by the current government calling for sanctions against media. A dozen media organizations stopped broadcasts.

(source: Unfinished Country – PBS Wide Angle)


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