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a44: Haiti : Government supporters attack the press after coup attempt (fwd)

From: RSF Americas <ameriques@rsf.org>

17 December 2001


Government supporters attack the press after coup attempt

In a letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, RSF denounced the
attacks against media outlets and journalists by government followers
who filled the streets to support the government, which was dealing
with an attempted coup d'état. "The systematic nature of the attacks
demonstrates that the protestors were acting on instructions to attack
the press," stated RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. Recalling the
case of murdered journalist Brignol Lindor, Ménard denounced the
"strategy that seeks to liken the press to the opposition in order to
legitimise attacks against it." RSF asked the president to take all the
necessary steps to guarantee journalists' safety and allow radio
stations to start broadcasting their programmes again. The organisation
also asked the head of state to order his supporters to cease attacking
the press.

Lindor, a journalist from Radio Echo 2000, was killed on 3 December
2001 by individuals who are close to the president's party, Fanmi
Lavalas, after receiving opposition figures as guests on his radio
programme. Since October, about thirty journalists have been threatened
or attacked by government supporters who accuse them of being critical
of the government, according to the Haitian Journalists' Association
(Association des journalistes haïtiens, AJH).

According to information collected by RSF, on the morning of 17
December, at least a dozen journalists, including Agence France Presse
(AFP) photographer Thony Bélizaire, Patrick Moussignac, Gérin Alexandre
and Jean-Elie Moléus,  Radio Caraïbes FM director and reporters,
respectively, and AJH President Guyler Delva were assaulted by Fanmi
Lavalas supporters who came to support the government, which was
dealing with an attempted coup d'état. Following an appeal by the
president, several thousand Aristide supporters gathered in front of
the presidential palace. The protestors, who were very tense and armed
with machetes, sticks and pistols, forced journalists to leave the
scene under threat. According to several observers, they accuse the
press of being too critical of the government. In addition, two
vehicles belonging to the Telemax television channel and Radio
Métropole were also attacked in the area surrounding the presidential

Citing threats, Radio Métropole, Radio Vision 2000, Radio Caraïbes FM
and Radio Kiskéya, four private stations from the capital, ceased
broadcasting for security reasons, while other stations, including
Radio Galaxie, Signal FM and Radio Ibo, suspended broadcasts of their
news programmes. Demonstrators attacked the studios of Radio Caraïbes,
breaking the station's office windows. Several journalists were
threatened by government supporters, who wanted to find out which media
outlets they worked for. "We would have killed you if you were a Radio
Caraïbes journalist," demonstrators told Maxeau Exil, from the Haïti
Press Network online agency, whom they threatened with a gun.
Demonstrators forced Radio Ibo journalist Roger Damas to hand over his
press card and cellular phone. They accused Radio Ibo of supporting the
opposition. Damas managed to escape his attackers. There was also a
gathering in front of Signal FM radio station. Fearing reprisals,
several of the station's journalists reportedly stayed home, according
to AJH President Delva. Outside the capital, at least two media
professionals were attacked and the Radio Maxima station, which
broadcasts in Cap Haïtien (northern Haiti), was forced to suspend its

Demonstrators also attacked the offices of the three opposition
organisations Convergence démocratique, Konakom and Kid.

Armed men attacked the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince at dawn.
According to the AFP, the attackers were led by Guy Philippe, a former
police commissioner who was already accused of plotting a coup in the
summer of 2000 and was subsequently exiled to the Dominican Republic
and later Ecuador. According to the president's office, security forces
stormed the palace and regained control that same morning.

<italic>Reporters Sans Frontières defends jailed journalists and press
freedom throughout the world, that is, the right to inform and be
informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. Reporters Sans Frontières has nine sections (Austria,
Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland and
United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Montréal, Tokyo
and Washington, and about a hundred correspondents worldwide.

Régis Bourgeat

Despacho Américas / Americas desk

Reporters sans frontières

5, rue Geoffroy-Marie

75009 Paris - France

tél. : +33 (0) 1 44 83 84 57

fax : +33 (0) 1 45 23 11 51

e-mail : ameriques@rsf.org

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