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a105: Haiti-Journalists (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 21(AP) -- One radio station has stopped broadcasting
the news and journalists fearing for their lives sought refuge this week in
foreign embassies following an alleged coup attempt that led President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide supporters to attack reporters.
   As of Friday, the government had arrested two men in connection with
Monday's attack on the presidential palace. Five gunmen were killed, and
authorities believe as many as 18 others escaped when police retook the
   For some Haitian reporters, though, the ordeal isn't over. Several
journalists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity
said they fear for their lives.
   Aristide militants attacked reporters outside the National Palace the
day of the assault. One radio reporter had a pistol held to his head. An
armed mob forced three other journalists to yell "Long live Aristide!"
   At least a dozen journalists were assaulted, according to the
French-based Reporters Without Borders. No one was seriously injured, but
the protesters forced the journalists to leave under threat while police
stood watching. No arrests have been made.
   Most sinister has been what Reporters Without Borders denounced as "a
strategy looking to assimilate the press into the opposition in order to
legitimze the attacks against them (reporters)."
   "The systematic character of the assaults shows that the protesters have
received instructions to attack the press," Reporters Without Borders
Secretary-General Robert Menard said in a statement.
   Aristide, who was unharmed, condemned the violence and urged his
supporters to "respect the rights of journalists."
   But later in the day, Radio Ti-Moun, an educational station run by
Aristide's private Foundation for Democracy, charged that: "Unfortunately,
some of the press prepared people psychologically for the coup."
   At least 10 people were killed in the palace attack and subsequent
violence. Aristide supporters burned the homes and offices of opposition
   Opposition leaders accuse Haiti's beleaguered government of staging the
attack as a pretext for crushing the opposition and winning international
sympathy. One radio reporter said he was threatened after questioning the
authenticity of the coup.
   Several radio stations temporarily stopped broadcasting after the
attack, and some aired only music. Radio Caraibes hasn't broadcast any news
since its windows were smashed after the palace assault. Other stations
have cut back on news reports.
   Some reporters have sought shelter at foreign embassies, diplomats
   Conditions for Haitian reporters have steadily worsened since the April
2000 assassination of the Caribbean nation's most prominent journalist,
Jean Dominique.
   A one-time Aristide ally, Dominique was shot as he became increasingly
critical of Aristide's party in the turbulent period before legislative
   The prime suspect, pro-Aristide Sen. Dany Toussaint, a former police
chief, has defied a summons for questioning. Reporters Without Borders
accused Aristide's government of obstructing the investigation.
   On Dec. 3, Aristide supporters hacked provincial journalist Brignol
Lindor, 31, to death. Lindor's station, Echo 2000, was the only one to put
out news in his town. It has ceased newscasts since his assassination.
   Between October and Lindor's death, the Federation of Haitian Journalist
Associations documented 30 cases of threats or aggression against reporters
by Aristide supporters.
   At Lindor's funeral in the town of Petit-Goave on Haiti's southern
peninsula, 24-year-old journalist Francois Johnson said he was
reconsidering his line of work.
   "The whole profession is traumatized by Lindor's brutal death. We are
afraid of what is in store for us," he said.