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7402: From latest Report of Coomittee to Protect Journalists (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
HAITIAN JOURNALISM RECEIVED A TERRIBLE BLOW in the April assassination of
Jean Léopold Dominique, the country's most prominent journalist and a
veteran advocate of free speech. On April 3, an unidentified gunman shot
Dominique seven times as he entered Radio Haïti Inter's courtyard for his
morning broadcast. Security guard Jean-Claude Louissaint was also shot dead
in the attack.
The 69-year-old Dominique was a close friend and political advisor to
President René Préval, and virtually the only reporter in Haiti who dared to
do serious investigative work. In an April 4 letter to Préval, CPJ called
for a full investigation and insisted that the perpetrators be brought to
justice. In July, the government appointed the Bureau des Avocats
Internationaux to provide legal support for the investigation. (The same
legal team worked on a trial that resulted in the November convictions of
more than 50 former high-ranking paramilitary and army soldiers for
involvement in a 1994 slum massacre.) And in September, the justice minister
appointed a new judge because of delays in the investigation.
Michele Montas, Dominique's widow and the director of Radio Haïti Inter,
told CPJ that four suspects had been arrested so far. One of them apparently
died of heart failure after surgery for minor bullet wounds, and his body
later mysteriously disappeared from the local morgue.
In Haiti, where as many as eight out of every 10 people cannot read and the
price of a television set can exceed the average yearly wage, radio remains
the primary medium, with dozens of FM stations on the air. Many stations are
partisan, and virtually none do investigative work because of the risks
involved. The country has two major dailies, Le Matin and Le Nouvelliste,
along with three partisan weeklies distributed in both the United States and
Haiti-Haïti-Observateur, Haïti Progrès, and Haïti En Marche. The
one-year-old Haitian Times, which is edited by former New York Times
reporter Garry Pierre-Pierre, aims to inform English-speaking Haitians at
home and abroad about current events in Haiti and among the Haitian
Haiti's already turbulent political climate was further rocked by the
violence surrounding legislative and presidential elections held in May and
November, which yielded an overwhelming victory for former president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his ruling Lavalas Family (FL) party. Aristide,
whose inauguration was set for February 7, was re-elected on November 26
with 92 percent of the vote in a national election shunned by international
allies and major opposition parties, after Haiti failed to rectify tainted
results from parliamentary elections held on May 21.
Press freedom violations linked to election violence and intimidation drove
several reporters into exile. Radio Vision 2000 newscasters Daly Valet and
Donald Jean moved to Canada in May after receiving numerous threats for
critical coverage of the government and the FL. (One of their colleagues at
the station, reporter Léontes Dorzilme, went into hiding for about a month).
On April 8, the day of Dominique's state funeral, a pro-Lavalas mob that had
just burned down the nearby headquarters of an opposition party went on to
Radio Vision 2000, screaming incendiary slogans and calling for Valet and
Dorzilme. And after the highly controversial May elections, callers demanded
that radio stations not use the term "contested" when referring to the
On the day of the presidential election, November 26, several radio stations
received threats after they reported low voter turnout in the capital and
outer provinces. Some anonymous callers ordered stations not to comment on
the elections. The private station Radio Galaxie, which received calls
telling it to report high voter turnout, closed down midway through the
voting and did not resume broadcasting until four days later.
After the election, half a dozen news outlets started receiving regular
anonymous threats warning them not to criticize the government or Aristide's
FL party. Radio Caraïbes, which was receiving threats almost every day at
year's end, stopped broadcasting for nearly three weeks after a caller said,
"If you don't close down, we will force you to close." The call followed a
broadcast of the station's weekly political news program "Ranmase"
("Summary"), during which members of an opposition group criticized the
government and questioned the legitimacy of the November 26 election.
In January, Préval rescinded a promise to sign the Declaration of
Chapultepec, an affirmation of press freedom principles sponsored by the
Miami-based Inter American Press Association that has been signed by
numerous Latin American heads of state.
Jean Léopold Dominique, Radio Haïti Inter
Dominique, the outspoken owner and director of the independent station Radio
Haïti Inter, was shot dead by an unknown gunman who also killed the
station's security guard, Jean Claude Louissaint.
Shortly after 6 a.m. on April 3, Dominique arrived at Radio Haïti Inter to
host the 7 a.m. news program, according to CPJ sources in Haiti. After
Louissaint opened the gate to the station's premises, which are along the
road from Port-au-Prince to the suburb of Pétion-Ville, Dominique parked his
car inside. As he was about to enter the radio station, a single gunman
entered the compound on foot and shot him seven times. The gunman then fired
two shots at Louissaint before escaping in a Jeep Cherokee whose driver had
been waiting for him outside the compound.
The assassin was said to have been spotted near the station before
Dominique's arrival, although his weapon was not visible at that time.
Minutes after the attack, Dominique's wife, Michele Montas, arrived at the
station in a separate car and found the wounded bodies of her husband and
Louissaint. Both victims died of their wounds in the Haitian Community
Hospital in Pétion-Ville.
Dominique, 69, was Haiti's most prominent political journalist and a veteran
advocate of free speech. He was also considered one of President René
Préval's close political allies. In an April 4 letter to President Préval,
CPJ expressed its deep sorrow over the assassination and called on him to
ensure that its perpetrators were brought to justice. At year's end, police
were holding four suspects in the murders, according to Montas.
Gérard Denoze, Radio Plus
KILLED (MOTIVE UNCONFIRMED)
Two gunmen shot and killed Denoze, a sports presenter for the station Radio
Plus, in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Carrefour.
The director of Radio Plus, Jean Lucien Prussien, told CPJ that Denoze had
taken a communal taxi at around 3:30-3:45 p.m., heading towards his home in
Carrefour. About a mile from Denoze's home, the two gunmen jumped on the
taxi and told all the passengers to get off.
When Denoze moved to comply, the gunmen told him, "You have to stop, mister,
it's you we need." They shot him in the neck, stomach, and abdomen, and then
fled the scene, shooting in the air to keep bystanders at a distance. The
police arrived nearly an hour later and detained the taxi driver. A street
vendor witnessed the crime, according to Prussien.
Denoze had worked with Radio Plus since 1997. He presented a sports program
every morning except Sunday, when he commented on live sporting events. His
work had no political content whatsoever, according to Prussien.
The director declined to speculate on the motive for the killing. According
to other sources, however, Denoze was rumored to have received threats after
he allegedly embezzled money from a sports tournament that he had helped