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7520: Interview with Michelle Montas-"On the Media" RESEND (fwd)

From: Tequila Minsky <tminsky@ix.netcom.com>

Transcript-On the Media, WNYC.

                 "A crime is punished.
                 You have to pay for
                 it. That notion does not
                 exist in Haitian Society."

                 Journalism in Haiti

                 March 17, 2001

                              BOB GARFIELD: Since the
                              mid-90s, Haitian journalists have
                              been cultivating a free press. That
                              freedom grew more fragile last
                              year when reporters were
                              subjected to a round of death
                              threats, culminating in the
                              shooting death of Jean
                              Dominique, a hero of Haitian
                              radio, right in front of his station.
                              His passionate and candid
                              reports had earned him equally
                              fervent enemies, any one of
                              whom could have arranged for
                              his murder.

                              BROOKE GLADSTONE: Some of
                              the accused have tried to cast
                              suspicion on his widow and
                              co-host who was not with him as
                              she usually was on the morning
                              he died, but Michele Montas is
                              doing all she can to make sure
                              the investigation goes forward,
                              despite the challenges posed by
                              Haiti's fledgling democracy. On
                              the Media's Marianne McCune
                              traveled to Haiti and brought back
                              this report.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Michele
                              Montas says she believes in love
                              at first sight. It happened to her
                              one evening in 1972 - the first
                              time she saw Jean Dominique.

                              WOMEN: I go to first movie -- I see
                              him. I go to second movie -- I see
                              him. I go to third movie, which I
                              love to do -- go to see three
                              movies in a row -- I go to a third
                              movie and here he is again! I said
                              that man is crazy!

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Twenty-nine  years later, as 
the first streams of
                              sunlight creep in among the purple 
bougainvillea bordering
                              her garden, Montas climbs out of  bed, says 
goodbye to the
                              photograph on her nightstand  and takes her 
morning coffee
                              alone, facing the front door. She awaits the 
arrival of a car full of
                              gunslinging government bodyguards to back up 
the two
                              with her at all times. [CAR HORN]
                              Only then will she drive through the gates of 
Radio Haiti Inter [sp?]
                              into the parking lot where one morning almost 
a year ago she
                              rushed to her husband's aid, too late to hear 
his last words.
                              [MUSIC, GREETINGS] In the on  air studio 
across from her
                              engineer, Montas leans bony elbows on the 
table under a
                              bigger than life black and white photograph 
of Jean Dominique.
                              [RADIO "SIGNAL" SOUND  UNDER] His voice still 
opens the
                              morning news show.

                              JEAN DOMINIQUE: Il est sept heures. A tous-- 
je dit bonjour.

                              TRANSLATOR: It's 7 o'clock. To all I say good 

                              MICHELE MONTAS: Bonjour Jean.
                              Bonjour a tous. Nous sommes aujourdhui le ....

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: She raises her eyes between 
phrases as if
                              speaking to someone in the room. It's been 
326 days, she
                              says, since a journalist who at  times risked 
his life so others
                              could gain the right to speak was 
assassinated in the courtyard of
                              this radio station. It's been 326  days since 
a free man fell.

                              MAN: [...?...] actualite. [MUSIC]

                              WOMEN: La priorite du  gouvernement....

                              MAN: A chaque fois....

                              TRANSLATOR: Each time you  enter this radio 
station, the first
                              thing that hits you is that Jean was murdered 

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Gregorie Casimir is one of 
the dozen or so
                              journalists who work with Montas.

                              TRANSLATOR: And now you, you could be another 

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Jean Dominique and Michele 
                              reported the news through far more 
nerve-wracking times in
                              Haiti. During the 1970s and '80s under the 
dictatorial regimes of
                              the Duvaliers, Radio Haiti was  one of the 
single sources of news
                              to push beyond official public  statements; 
to avoid being closed
                              down, reporters approached their  stories 
indirectly, for example
                              using Nicaragua as a metaphor  for Haiti.

                              MICHELE MONTAS: We couldn't talk about the 
eventual fall of Jean
                              Claude Duvalier, but we talk  about the fall 
of Somoza. The
                              Sandinista song was played on our airwave! We 
had a reporter in

                 MARIANNE McCUNE: Montas  had studied journalism at 
Columbia                        University in New York, but 
found  reporting in Haiti was not the
                              objective craft her professors would have had 
her believe. It
                              was a battle. After the fall of Jean
                              Claude Duvalier in 1986, that
                              battle was for free Democratic
                              elections, but by the night before
                              Haitians were to cast their ballots
                              the following year, fires set by the
                              military burned across

                              VICTORIA CORDERI ON AIR: The
                              culprits are believed to be a loose
                              alliance of Duvalier loyalists....

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Victoria
                              Corderi of CBS News.

                              VICTORIA CORDERI ON AIR:
                              ...military who are being blamed
                              for the months of violence.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Montas and
                              her team watched in frustration
                              from the station's roof until they
                              found they themselves were
                              being shot at.

                              MICHELE MONTAS: There was
                              that feeling that whether you were
                              a journalist or not, it's called rage.
                              There were some rocks on top of
                              that roof. We picked them up and
                              started throwing the rocks, and it
                              was, I have to say, extremely
                              enjoyable to see armed men
                              running. One of them dropped his

                              VICTORIA CORDERI ON AIR: Most
                              of the radio stations have been
                              sabotaged. The radio is a unifying
                              force here.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: It was 1990
                              before Haitians finally did get to
                              vote. That was a victory for Radio
                              Haiti. Dominique supported the
                              election of Jean Bertrand Aristide.
                              He told listeners he was for
                              Aristide's party called Lavalas, but
                              Dominique never stopped
                              battling, and neither has his

                              MAN: [...?...] seras juger par....

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: They've
                              covered the poisoning of 70
                              children from faulty cough syrup
                              and the push to prosecute the
                              owner of the company at fault.
                              They've reported on corruption
                              among Haitian officials and
                              businessmen and on the U.S.'s
                              refusal to extradite the Haitian
                              leader of a paramilitary group.
                              Among those Dominique
                              slammed in his commentaries
                              were Haiti's most powerful. Now
                              some are suspects in his

                              JEAN DOMINIQUE: La verite
                              toujours [...?...] la face du diable.

                              TRANSLATOR: The truth always
                              makes the face of the devil blush.

                              JEAN DOMINIQUE: Merci.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Jean
                              Dominique's voice is still
                              ubiquitous on Radio Haiti in a
                              daily promotional spot he tells

                              TRANSLATOR: They've tried
                              everything to sink us - to
                              electrocute us - to drown us - to
                              seduce us!

                              JEAN DOMINIQUE: [LAUGHS]!!!! Il
                              y- a [...?...]. Y a t'il raison [...?...]?
                              Une! Il faut que les choses
                              changes en Haiti.

                              TRANSLATOR: This has lasted
                              more than 50 years. Is there a
                              reason it should stop? Yes. One!
                              Things must change in Haiti.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Whether
                              Haiti can put Jean Dominique's
                              killer on trial is a test of just how
                              much the country has changed.
                              The Judge charged with
                              investigating his murder travels
                              through Port-au-Prince followed
                              not only by a police van but by a
                              government swat team. Of the
                              half dozen who've been arrested
                              so far, one died mysteriously on
                              an operating table. Of the 70
                              called for questioning, some are
                              finding ways to resist. A Lavalas
                              senator against whom evidence
                              is piling up says he's willing but
                              his senate colleagues are
                              debating whether he has

                              BRIAN CONCANNON: When
                              democracy was restored in the
                              fall of 1994 the justice system
                              was absolutely in shambles.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Brian
                              Concannon's group of
                              international attorneys is working
                              for the Haitian government.

                              MAN: Throughout its history the
                              people running the system had
                              always taken the sides of
                              whoever had the guns and the

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Concannon
                              says in this case top officials
                              have assured him there are no
                              untouchables, but Haitians don't
                              believe the government can or will

                              MAN: So someone might have
                              information that if they were sure
                              that their information would put
                              the person in, in jail, they would
                              give it but they're not sure that's
                              going to happen, and they're
                              afraid of antagonizing somebody.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Local
                              journalists are certainly skeptical
                              that a killer will be found and
                              punished, especially those
                              who've themselves been
                              threatened with death or damage
                              to their stations in the past year
                              and believe the ruling party is
                              responsible. When a station
                              called Radio [KEES gay AH]
                              referred repeatedly to last year's
                              Parliamentary elections as rigged
                              they found a warning next to the
                              front door.

                              MARVEL DANDIN: C'est la quand
                              on a...

                              TRANSLATOR: That's where
                              someone left a gallon of gas....

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Marvel
                              Dandin is co-founder of the

                              TRANSLATOR: They were saying
                              we can burn you down.

                              MARVEL DANDIN: [LAUGHS]

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: The facade
                              of another radio station, Vision
                              2000, is punctured with small
                              holes after protesters shouting
                              slogans of the ruling party pelted
                              it with rocks.

                              LEOPOLD BERLANGER: Il y a
                              trois. Il y ca-- il y ca....

                              TRANSLATOR: There are three
                              holes -- there's that, there's that,
                              and there's a third.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Station
                              owner Leopold Berlanger is a
                              wealthy supporter of the

                              LEOPOLD BERLANGER: A ce
                              moment la police peut....

                              TRANSLATOR: These days police
                              can cross their arms and do
                              nothing! Who's responsible? Are
                              they following an order from
                              someone powerful? We don't
                              know! And our leaders say
                              nothing. They close their mouths.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: In January,
                              just before President Aristide was
                              newly inaugurated, a list of
                              people suspected of favoring the
                              opposition was read over
                              government air. Two journalists
                              were named, one a radio [KEES
                              gay AH] host.

                              MAN: Et ils ont dits que les

                              TRANSLATOR: They said that the
                              people on this list need to explain
                              themselves or they will be killed.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Though a
                              government flack denounced the
                              reader, no one seemed to claim
                              responsibility for the list. Two
                              reporters at Vision 2000 fled to
                              Canada last year. Radio stations
                              have closed for days or weeks at
                              a time. Some reporters sleep in a
                              different bed every night.

                              GUY DELVA: If you knew that okay,
                              this was - it was the government,
                              it was the police chief, it was a
                              minister, maybe when you are
                              reporting the news you know how
                              to present it -- but now you don't
                              know who! And you don't know
                              which news will bother who!

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Newspaper
                              reporter Guy Delva recently
                              revived The Association of Haitian
                              Journalists --disbanded during
                              the military coup of 1991.

                              MAN: When press freedom
                              exists, now it can be threatened.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Delva's aim
                              is to get journalists to stand
                              together against threats, but the
                              journalists themselves are
                              divided. Berlanger's Vision 2000
                              is funded by wealthy investors
                              who support opposition leaders.
                              It's even rumored to receive
                              American money. People say Guy
                              Delva of the Association of the
                              Haitian Journalists is an
                              even-handed reporter, but they
                              also say he's on the government

                              MICHELE MONTAS: A few years
                              ago you know it was-- when you
                              had money, you know you'd buy
                              yourself a bank. Now you buy
                              yourself a media! A radio station!

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Radio
                              stations and newspapers are
                              themselves political players,
                              reminds Michele Montas, whose
                              station has received death threats
                              from all sides. The media are
                              enmeshed in the same violent
                              culture that plagues Haitian
                              politics. They grew up under
                              Duvalier's strongarm tactics and
                              machete-bearing Tontons

                              MICHELE MONTAS: I don't think it
                              is amazing in any way that you
                              have a little bit of the Macoutes left
                              in the mentality of a lot of Haitians
                              -- whatever the political parties!
                              You don't overturn mentalities

                              BROOKE GLADSTONE: The
                              threats will go away says Montas
                              only when the justice system has
                              squeaked into action.

                              MICHELE MONTAS: A crime is
                              punished. You have to pay for it.
                              That notion does not exist in
                              Haitian Society. [RADIO "SIGNAL"
                              SOUND UNDER]

                              JEAN DOMINIQUE: Il est sept
                              heures. A tous-- je dit bonjour.

                              MICHELE MONTAS: Bonjour Jean.
                              Bonjour a tous....

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: There is a
                              myth that Jean Dominique loved,
                              says Montas -- the myth of
                              Sisyphus, condemned by the
                              gods to roll a boulder up a

                              MICHELE MONTAS: It didn't matter
                              to Sisyphus that the rock was
                              going to roll down again after he
                              had brought it up the mountain.
                              What mattered was-- the shape of
                              the rock, was the way the rock felt
                              under your hands, was the effort
                              of pushing it.

                              MARIANNE McCUNE: Michele
                              Montas may not know whom
                              she's fighting, but she knows
                              what she's fighting for. Backing
                              down now, she says, would make
                              her an assassin in the second
                              murder of her husband. For On
                              the Media, I'm Marianne McCune.

                              copyright 2001 WNYC Radio