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8441: CPJ: Radio journalist threatened for comments about ruling party (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <email@example.com>
HAITI: Radio journalist threatened for comments about ruling party
Click here to read more about press freedom conditions in HAITI
June 13, 2001
His Excellency Jean-Bertrand Aristide
President of Haiti
VIA FACSIMILE: 011-509-223-0241
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is profoundly concerned about
recent threats against Roosevelt Benjamin, director of information of the
radio station Signal FM, based in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétion-Ville.
We urge Your Excellency to guarantee the safety of our colleague.
Benjamin told CPJ that on the afternoon of June 9, one hour after concluding
his weekly political talk show "Moment Vérité" ("Moment of Truth"), he
received an anonymous call on his cellular phone. "I see you are meddling in
affairs that are none of your business," the caller said. " But we can force
you to be silent."
Five minutes later, the same man called again, this time telling Benjamin
that he knew where the journalist lived and what car he drove. The next day
at around 5 p.m., Benjamin received similar threats from a different caller.
After the program was rebroadcast on the night of June 11, Benjamin received
another, apparently threatening call in which the caller remained silent.
All four calls were made with a prepaid phone card, Benjamin said, making it
impossible for him to identify the callers through the caller-ID function on
his cellular phone.
Benjamin believes that he was threatened for stating, during his June 9
broadcast, that a recently launched political organization called the
Majority Civil Society Movement ("Mouvement de la Société Civile
Majoritaire") was in fact dominated by the relatives of senators from the
ruling Lavalas Family.
These threats are only the latest in the string of attacks against Haitian
journalists during the past year. Haiti has been in a political crisis since
the tainted May 2000 parliamentary election that gave the Lavalas Family
control over Parliament. The opposition refused to recognize the results of
this election, and a lengthy standoff ensued. Your Excellency recently
promised new, staggered legislative elections, a proposal that was approved
during last week's General Assembly of the Organization of American States.
In recent months, CPJ has received several reports that journalists working
with Signal FM were intimidated. Earlier this year, for example, armed men
visited the neighborhood of political analyst and frequent Signal FM
commentator Michel Soukar. The men asked local residents to tell them where
Soukar lived and what kind of car he drove. And during pro-Lavalas Family
demonstrations in March, men on motorcycles drove by the station and told
the guard that he should "prepare to be attacked."
As Your Excellency is well aware, democracies depend on the free exchange of
news and ideas. In these volatile times, Haitian journalists should be able
to rely on the government to safeguard their right to free expression, so
that they can report the news without fear of reprisal. CPJ urges Your
Excellency to guarantee the safety of Benjamin and his colleagues.
Ann K. Cooper