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#4084: FWD - Jean Dominique's Widow (fwd)


Published Tuesday, May 30, 2000, in the Miami Herald 

Haitian's widow vows to press on
Slain radio host's station resumes freedom legacy 

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- The red and blue banners flapping in the breeze above the 
teeming streets of Port-au-Prince tell the story: Jean Dominique Fell. The 
Fight Continues, proclaims one. Jean Dominique. You Are Gone But Your Ideas 
Will Go On, says another.

Early the morning of April 3, an unknown assassin gunned down Dominique, 
stilling the always controversial and sometimes confrontational voice of 
Haiti's most famous radio journalist, as he arrived at Radio Haiti Inter in 
suburban Petionville.

But his wife Michele Montas, his partner in the radio station as well as in 
life, vows to make sure that Dominique's fight continues and that his ideas 

``Considering what I have lost, there is no other way for me but to go 
forward,'' Montas said in a recent interview in her second-floor office on 
the busy Delmas street.

``What was important to Jean was that this station, which has been running 
since 1972, continued to do what he wanted for this station; what he wanted 
for this country, emphasizing the same things we always emphasized.''

She added, ``I think it is important to stress that the issues we were doing 
investigative reporting about and Jean was commenting about, those reports 
still will continue.''

She acknowledged, however, that ``we cannot hope to replace Jean.''

Nor can Haiti, where one foreign journalist described Dominique as the 
country's ``Walter Cronkite.''

``There is no doubt in my mind that his death was a huge loss that resonated 
outside of Haiti as well, with the communities in New York, Miami and 
elsewhere,'' said Jocelyn McCalla, the Haitian-born director of the National 
Coalition for Haitian Rights.

``Jean was a pioneer as a journalist,'' said McCalla, noting that in the 
mid-1970s he was the first to begin broadcasts in creole, the language of the 
majority of the population. ``Of all the journalists I knew in Haiti, he was 
more committed to freedom of expression and freedom of speech and, even 
though he disagreed, he allowed dissident views to be broadcast.''

McCalla said he was concerned that Dominique's assassination, coming at the 
beginning of a cycle of violence leading up to recent elections, has created 
``fear on the part of remaining journalists to be overly cautious in 
reporting the news.''

Radio Haiti Inter returned to the air under Montas' direction, May 3, World 
Press Freedom Day and a month to the day after Dominique's assassination. The 
first 10 days were dedicated to rebroadcasts of Dominique's commentaries.

``I just announced that we were going to start again on the same line that 
Jean had always run this station. . . . We were going to prove that nothing 
had changed and that Jean was still alive.''


President Rene Preval, a Dominique friend of 20 years, declared Dominique's a 
National Funeral, the highest designation in Haiti for a final rite. It was 
held in the 18,000 seat soccer stadium, and later his ashes were scattered in 
the Artibonite Valley, home of the Haitian peasants he so frequently 
championed and defended.

``I realized after Jean died how important he had been to people in this 
country,'' Montas said. ``We took Jean's ashes to the Artibonite where 
several people had asked us to come and talk about Jean.''

After the ashes were scattered in the river, Montas said, the peasants said 
that you could find ``Jean's energy in every single grain of rice produced by 
the Artibonite Valley.'' 

Montas, a 1969 graduate of Columbia University Journalism School in New York, 
met Dominique in 1973 after her return to Haiti. They began living together 
then and were married in 1983 in New York after the station was shut down and 
they were exiled in 1980 by President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier.

They returned to a triumphal reception and reopened the station immediately 
after Duvalier fled the country in February 1986. ``I have been in charge of 
the newsroom for years, but Jean was the dynamic force behind us,'' Montas 

But the pressures continued under a successive military government. The 
evidence is visible on the bullet-riddled facade of the station's studios on 
Delmas street. It occurred in November 1987 as the military terrorized the 
country to prevent the first democratic elections after the fall of Duvalier. 
At least three dozen people died, many of them murdered as they stood in line 
to vote.


A 1991 military coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sent them 
packing into New York exile again, returning to Haiti for the last time 
following the 1994 U.S.-led invasion that made Aristide's return possible.

The one thing that has changed since Dominique's death is security, provided 
by the Haitian National Police, both at the station and at Montas' home in 

Dominique, said Montas, ``was always against armed men guarding the station. 
His idea was that a radio station, since it was supposed to be open to the 
public as the media in general, it should not be guarded by weapons.''

She has ``no clear view'' of who might have been responsible for Dominique's 
assassination. She said she believes the killer will probably be found, ``but 
maybe not the one who paid for the crime.''

In terms of security, she added, things were ``harsher but easier'' under 
previous authoritarian regimes ``to the extent that you knew where the 
bullets were coming from. Now it is much more difficult . . . and I don't 
know where Jean's assassination came from.''