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29291: Potemaksonje (News) Discrediting the Lancet Study on Haiti: A lesson in acquiring the attention and respect of the corporate media (fwd)

From: pote mak sonje <potemaksonje@yahoo.com>

Discrediting the Lancet Study on Haiti:
A lesson in acquiring the attention and respect of the
corporate media

by Joe Emersberger
October 02, 2006


Some of the best work from Medialens reveals how the
corporate press shields the powerful from their most
formidable critics. High level UN administrators Hans
Von Sponeck and Denis Halliday; former chief UN
weapons inspector Scott Ritter; leading epidemiologist
Les Roberts were all ignored even as Medialens readers
flooded the BBC, UK Guardian, and the London
Independent with emails asking why. [1]

Prominent dissidents such as Noam Chomsky and Nobel
Laureate Harold Pinter fared even worse. The more
impressive their achievements the easier they are to
trash. The Guardian's hatchet job on Chomsky by Emma
Brockes is an extreme example. It was so clumsily done
that it generated a huge backlash and, eventually, a

How then, did an obscure, left leaning author from the
UK obtain instant access to the corporate press from
which to attack a human rights study about Haiti
published by the prestigious UK medical journal, The
Lancet? [3] Days after the study's publication, the
AP, Toronto Globe and Mail, and the UK Guardian were
all uncritically quoting Charles Arthur. To slightly
rephrase a question the David Peterson pursued on his
blog: Who is this guy? What does he have that Chomsky,
Ritter, Halliday and others didn't have? Why were his
arguments and motives not scrutinized by the
journalists who handed him a megaphone?[4]

Here is a hint. The study he wanted to discredit did
not exactly flatter the powerful.

An unelected regime backed primarily by the US, France
and Canada - though they had plenty of accomplices -
had ruled Haiti since February 29 , 2004 when
President Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown, until
May of 2006. The study found that 8000 murders, and
35,000 rapes had taken place under the interim regime.
About 4000 of those murders were found to be
politically motivated and committed by the government
security forces and its partisans. The survey did not
detect killings by Lavalas (pro- Aristide) partisans
or MINUSTAH (UN forces). Arthur's objections were that
Athena Kolbe, the co-author, had volunteered at an
orphanage founded by Aristide, had written articles he
viewed as sympathetic to Aristide under the name Lyn
Duff, and that the study seemed to "exonerate" Lavalas

Charles Arthur smelled a rat. Athena Kolbe would soon
receive a dead rat in the mail. Nameless callers
phoned from the UK to threaten her and her family
members with death and a package wrapped to look like
a bomb was mailed to her co-author, social work
professor Royce Hutson. The packages and threats
promoted an investigation by the local bomb squad, the
US postal inspectors, the Detroit City Police
Department and the FBI. Which would the corporate
press pay attention to; the human rights study which
promoted such a swift and vicious response or Arthur's
suspicions about the Lancet being duped into spreading
Lavalas propaganda? As of writing this, not a single
corporate outlet has reported on the backlash against
the Lancet human rights investigators, despite being
fully informed during interviews of the events which
had taken place.

Instead, the media's emphasis was on Arthur's
suspicions about Kolbe, but interest in her was
selective. It is worth remembering that in the US,
where Kolbe and Hutson live, people like Haitian death
squad leader Emmanuel Constant have found safe haven.
It is not only in Haiti are they shielded from
accountability. [6]

Rather than parrot Charles Arthur's objections to the
study, journalists could have explored an important
question: Are the findings of the Kolbe/Hutson study

It is not difficult to find human rights reports that
suggest they were, but reports by Harvard Law School,
the Miami University of Law, Amnesty International,
the National Lawyers Guild, and the Institute for
Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) were ignored by
the corporate press.[7] Instead the AP, Guardian and
the Globe and Mail offered us Charles Arthur and his

Had reporters asked Arthur, as I did, if he disputed
that the unelected government and its allies committed
most of the political killings they would have found
him revealingly evasive: "I don't have an answer to
this because I have not carried out a survey." [8]

Journalists should have wondered why Arthur was
completely untroubled by the fact that killings by
MINUSTAH were not detected in the study. MINUSTAH has
certainly killed innocent people in Haiti. The July 6
, 2005 massacre in Cite Soleil was so well documented
(captured on film by journalist Kevin Pina) that
MINUSTAH was compelled to issue a statement saying it
"...deeply regrets any injuries or loss of life during
its operation." Up to 23 civilians, including
children, were killed in that raid. [9]

Massacres by MINUSTAH were also reported by Canadian
freelance journalist Isabel MacDonald and,
significantly, Athena Kolbe - writing then as Lyn
Duff. [10] Had Kolbe decided to exonerate MINUSTAH of
their most serious crimes after having documented them
as a journalist? Put aside how she would have put this
past her co-author and the Lancet reviewers. The much
more reasonable explanation is the one Kolbe gave: no
one had been exonerated. Killings by MINUSTAH were not
committed on a large enough scale to be picked up in
the survey. But this undermines the charge that
Kolbe's political sympathies skewed the results. It
was therefore ignored by both Arthur and the press.

The press would not reveal that Charles Arthur's Haiti
Support Group is part of a larger network of NGOs that
facilitated the coup of 2004. This network includes
Christian Aid and Batay Ouvriye, a leftist
anti-Lavalas group often featured on Arthur's website.
[11] The U.S. and Canadian governments generously
funded many of these groups. In 2000 the Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA) drastically
increased its funding of left leaning opponents of
Lavalas. Among them were Rights and Democracy,
Alternatives, Oxfam Quebec and various human rights
groups in Haiti - including the National Coalition for
Haitian Rights, NCHR (now RNDDH) which received
$100,000 from CIDA in 2004. [12] RNDDH became
notorious for the way it ignored repression of Lavalas
supporters after the coup. The Lancet study
highlighted the human cost of their silence, but also
the cost of the corporate media's silence. That
explains why Charles Arthur would gain such prompt and
uncritical attention.

Consider the Toronto Globe and Mail. Weeks before the
coup, Globe columnist and foreign editor Paul Knox put
out several reports from Haiti that depicted
Aristide's opponents - sweatshop owners Charles Baker
and Andy Apaid - as frustrated democrats. Knox created
the impression that Aristide had minimal popular
support. The huge demonstrations that had taken place
in support of Aristide were completely ignored. By the
time the coup took place Knox would express
disillusionment with the "peaceful" opponents he had
coddled but he would never retract the aspersions he
cast on Aristide's legitimacy. Despite the length of
his reports he would never clarify the relevant
history that would have allowed his readers to
understand what was going on. [13]

Aristide was overthrown for the first time in 1991,
months after becoming Haiti's first president in
Haiti's first democratic election. That coup left
thousands of Haitians dead, drove tens of thousands
into hiding, and left untold numbers raped, tortured
and traumatized. In 1994, the U.S. ordered the junta
to step down after outrageous concessions were secured
from Aristide. The US insisted that Aristide serve out
only what was left of his term and that the coup's
perpetrators be shielded from accountability. The US
still refuses to deport Emmanuel Constant, leader of
the FRAPH deaths squads that terrorized Haitians
following the coup.

Aristide was re-elected in 2000. A minor dispute over
the legislative elections of that year became a
pretext for a devastating aid embargo. In 2002 US
commissioned polls showed Aristide remained by far
Haiti's most popular politician. Early in 2004, while
various governments and NGOs lashed out at Aristide,
armed rebels made their move. One rebel leader was
Jodel Chamblain - second in command of FRAPH - whose
exploits during the 1990's, including overseeing mass
rapes and murders, were well documented. Chamblain's
rebels freed criminals from jail including General
Prosper Avril who served the Duvalier dictatorships.
The 2004 coup was led by the same cast of characters
who had perpetrated the first - Haiti's tiny elite and
their armed servants. No one remotely familiar with
Haiti needed a crystal ball to see what was coming for
Lavalas supporters.

Familiarity with this history would have helped
readers assess the credibility of Lancet study. The
strength of Lavalas has always been its popular
support - which has been shown in every election since
1990. Their opponents, on the other hand, have shot
their way into power twice since 1990. It is clear who
has the fire power, and the need, to engage in much
larger scale violence - an observation the press is
unable or unwilling to make.

Shortly after Aristide's ouster, commentaries by Paul
Knox disappeared from the pages of the Globe, but he
continued to work as foreign editor. In January of
2005, the Globe rejected a report by Yves Engler on
Canada's role in Haiti. Knox told Engler his report
could not be used "as it has a lot of commentary and
opinion woven through it." [14]
Engler would ask about a Marina Jimenez article that
appeared in the Globe at about the same time "Is there
no 'commentary' in a story that focuses on a brave
Canadian police officer who only wants to help
Haitians? " The Globe had no issue with that type of
commentary or with statements that were contradicted
by overwhelming evidence. Jimenez would write on
February 11, 2006 that "....by the time Mr. Aristide
left office, he was largely discredited." [15]

The Globe and Mail is far from being the only
newspaper that should be made to answer for its
coverage of Haiti. A pundit at another Canadian
newspaper has stated to me in private correspondence
that Haiti has been rejected as a topic for debate.

Don't expect the corporate press to ask "Where are the
other peer-reviewed studies?" According to Dr. Les
Roberts of John Hopkins University, total expenditures
for his mortality study in Iraq were $40,000 - far
more than what the Kolbe/Hutson study cost; and not
even round off error in the $200 million that the
Canadian government provided the Latortue regime.
Don't expect the press to ask why studies haven't been
done by the pro-coup NGOs flush with US and Canadian
government cash. Expect the corporate media to welcome
anyone who can help them obscure their complicity with
the worst human rights disaster in the Western


[1] Medialens alert: "Burying Genocide - The UN 'Oil
For Food' Programme";

Medialens Alert "Burying the Lancet Part 1" Sept 5,

Medialens Alert "No Mea Culpa From The British Media -
Part 1"; Sept 2,

[2]Medialens Alert, "Brilliant Fools: Harold Pinter,
John Le Carré And The Media" , Dec 19, 2005;

Medialens Alert: "Smearing Chomsky - The Guardian in
the Gutter", Nov 4, 2005;

[3] Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, "Human rights
abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince,
Haiti: a random survey of households," The Lancet,
Vol. 368, No. 9538, September 2, 2006,
[4] David Peterson http://blog.zmag.org/node/2744
[5] Arthur would broadcast his objections on UK
Indymedia and include information on churches that Ms.
Kolbe and her parents attend
[6] For more details see Znet: Sprague Emersberger:
You Are a Dog. You Should Die!
Death Threats Against Lancet's Haiti Human Rights

2004 http://www.law.miami.edu/news/368.html
Harvard Law School; "Keeping the Peace in
Haiti?";March 2005:

Amnesty International: Haiti: Breaking the cycle of
violence: A last chance for Haiti: June 21, 2004
National Lawyers Guild, Summary Report of Haiti Human
Rights Delegation?March 29 to April 5, 2004 ;
For IJDH human rights reports see
[8] See full exchange at
[9] Independent: Buncombe: Peacekeepers accused after
killings in Haiti :July 29, 2005
[10] Znet: Isabel MacDonald: MINUSTAH in Cite Soleil:

Lyn Duff: Bloody U.N. siege on Cité Soleil;

[11] Helen Spraos has produced apologetics for the
coup on behalf of Christian Aid. See
Christian Aid, a donor to Arthur's Haiti Support
Group, is partially funded by CIDA through the Jeannot
Succes Binational Human Rights Network.
The AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center, through two grants
from the U.S. Department of State and the NED, has a
$450,000 dollar program working specifically with
Batay Ouvriye. Jeb Sprague has tape recorded a
Solidarity Center official confirming this. Batay
Ouvriye's hysterical denunciations of Lavalas - 2
months before the coup - can be read at

[12] See Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton "Canada in
Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority" Chapter 3 for
much more detail.
[13] My email exchanges with Paul Knox at the time can
be read at http://www.en-camino.org/?p=5
[14]Yves Engler, Haiti Lies, January 29, 2005
[15] Globe & Mail: Marina Jimenez: Haiti's endangered
elite, February 11, 2006

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