Journalist Jean Léopold Dominique was killed yards away from his station, Radio Haïti on April 3, 2000. No-one has ever been prosecuted.
Journalist, broadcaster – Born into Haiti’s mulatto aristocracy on 30 July 1930, Dominique trained as an agronomist. But he soon aligned himself with the peasantry and the poor, which in Haiti’s highly-stratified society, often meant he was called a traitor to his class. In the late 1960s, he joined Radio Haiti as a reporter and then bought the station in 1971, renaming it Radio Haïti Inter. The station began reaching out, starting the first systematic broadcasting in Creole, the country’s main language, instead of French, which is spoken only by a tiny minority of Haitians. He encouraged reports from the countryside and gave more coverage of world affairs.
As a critic of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-86), he was forced into exile in 1981 after his wife, Michèle Montas, and other Haiti Inter staff were arrested and deported by the regime. He returned after the fall of President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in February 1986, only to leave again in 1991 when the army seized power. He came back in 1994, after that regime fell too.
After the Duvalier regime collapsed, his fight for democracy and interest in social issues drew him to the Lavalas movement which emerged in 1990 around the presidential candidacy of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But his independent spirit made him reject any suggestion of running for office himself. When his longtime friend René Préval became president in February 1996, Dominique became an unofficial adviser. He continued to air his news and comment show “Inter-Actualités” and an interview programme, “Face à l’opinion.” He made many enemies by harshly criticising the country’s moneyed elite, the former Duvalierists, the army, US policy towards Haiti and more recently, certain figures in Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party.
Dominique was murdered when he arrived before dawn on 3 April 2000 at the radio station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas. He parked his car in the small yard, got out and turned to go into the building. At that moment, a stranger walked into the yard and fired seven shots at Dominique. Four 9 mm bullets fatally wounded him in the neck and the heart and he died on the spot. The gunmen then shot dead the station’s security guard, Jean-Claude Louissant.