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#4259: Haitian Times: Haitian Journalists Unite (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Journalists Unite
Organization is Revived and a Center is Opened
By Trenton Daniel
Haitian Times Staff

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Local journalists in Haiti stood together in solidarity 
in light of a tense political climate that has surrounded the recent
legislative elections. "As the general coordinator of the Association of 
Haitian journalists, I'm here to help resurrect the Association of
Haitian Journalists" said Guy Delva, a reporter who also organized 100 
journalists in April to march in protest of the assassination of Jean
Leopold Dominique, an outspoken journalist who was gunned down in April 
for his critical reporting.

In a country with little tradition of a free press, Delva is
spearheading the group to call attention to the often dangerous and
difficult conditions Haitian journalists face. Delva and other local
journalists are eager to see a dramatic change for the Haitian press.
The press in this Caribbean nation viciously came under attack during
decades of the Duvalier regimes, and still does, many here said. And at 
the expense of a crushing economy, journalists here must also contend
with skimpy salaries and a lack of professional training and

But last Wednesday, Latin American Press Freedom Day, two groups of
journalists took a stand in favor of press freedom and press rights in 
Haiti. At Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince, one group brought 
together local journalists from media to announce the rebirth of the
Association of Haitian Journalists, a group that disbanded itself after 
former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from office by a
bloody military coup in 1991.

This past Saturday at the Christopher Hotel, in the Bourdon section of 
the capital, Delva and more than 150 journalists throughout the country 
continued what they started a few days before: to appoint a provisional 
committee for the Association of Haitian Journalists, which will soon
start an official committee. Members include Delva, Wilner Morn, Abel
Decollines and Guillaume Pierre-Richard. And only a few miles away on
the same day, another group of local journalists celebrated the opening 
of the Haitian Press Center at its new headquarters in Bourdon. "We want 
to give journalists in Haiti a place where they can come together," said 
Jean-Pierre Leroy, a reporter for radio station Signal FM, who along
with Ivlaine Paul and Wendell Theodore, started the center, which
officially opens next week.

The Haitian Press Center, which received five new computers, plans to
give seminars on how to use the Internet. The club will also stock
journalistic training books and domestic and foreign newspapers in a
library. The three journalists invested about $5,000 of their own money 
to create the center. Still, the primary problem facing local
journalists today, many of them say, is the political crackdown on press 
freedom. Since the Duvalier dynasty ended in 1986, journalists believe 
they can no longer locate the origin of the threats.

"What is difficult right now is, you don't know where the threats come 
from," said Michele Montas, the widow of Dominique and director of Radio 
Haiti Inter. She said that before the Duvalier years ended and the coup 
of President Jean-Bertand Aristide you could blame the military for the 
threats. "Before then, it was much easier to find out who the enemy was. 
Now, you don't know. It's very difficult to determine who's who." Robert 
Philome, a newscaster for Radio Vision 2000, has been the victim of
numerous death threats for a couple months because of his radio
station's reporting, which prompted him to shut down a popular news

The program remains off the air. Philome attributes the threats to
Haitian press's political affiliations. "The press here is very
divided," he said, noting how many media outlets in Haiti lean different 
ways in the political spectrum. After six hours at the Christopher Hotel 
on Saturday, Delva was optimistic about the outcome of press conditions 
in Haiti. Members of the Association of Haitian Journalists left knowing 
that a provisional committee was established and that press freedom in 
Haiti might become a reality.

The Haitian Times
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