Haiti Support Group Deplores Intimidation of Radio Journalist. 21 January 2009
The British solidarity organisation, the Haiti Support Group, joins the Haitian media rights organisation, SOS Journalistes, in deploring the way that Justice Minister, Jean-Joseph Exumé, threatened and attempted to intimidate Radio Vision 2000 journalist, Valéry Numa, during a radio interview earlier this week.
The interview concerned the alleged theft by judicial officials and police officers of a large sum of money during a November raid on a house belonging to a relative of an alleged drug-trafficker near the northern town of Port-de-Paix. When Numa asked the Justice Minister a series of searching questions regarding his ministry’s handling of the affair, Exumé responded by accusing the journalist himself of receiving some of the stolen money and suggesting he could be arrested.
On November 12th, 2008, police and justice officials raided the home of Marc Frederic, an uncle of Alain Désir who had been arrested and extradited to the United States in October to face charges of drug-trafficking. A sum of money believed to amount to millions of US dollars was allegedly taken from the house and later distributed among those taking part in the raid. Other local justice officials raised the matter with the Minister of Justice but the response – consisting of the dismissal of certain local judicial officials – has generally been regarded as insufficient and tantamount to a sanctioning of the theft.
Valéry Numa has doggedly followed the unravelling Port-de-Paix drug-money scandal, and has frequently reported on his investigations during his daily radio programmes, “L’Invité du Jour” and “Vision 2000 à l’Ecoute”.
Justice Minister Exumé’s remarks during the interview – that he himself had requested – can only be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate Numa. The intimidation is all the more alarming in view of the fact that since Numa began his investigations into the scandal he has received several warnings that his life is in danger.
The Haiti Support Group’s Charles Arthur said, “The minister’s response to Numa’s questions is worrying because any investigation into drug-trafficking is a very dangerous business, and especially so for a journalist. By publicly airing his threats, the minister may have sent signals that could leave Numa very exposed and vulnerable.”
Arthur added, “Quite apart from the dangerous position that Numa now finds himself in, the minister’s response is a grave blow to investigative journalism in Haiti. Since the murder of Jean Dominique in the year 2000, there has been even less investigative journalism than there was before – despite the pressing need for it – and this episode can only act as a further deterrent to journalists and editors.”
SOS Journalistes believes it is imperative for the minister to publicly explain himself and to clarify his remarks during the interview.