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a108: Palace violence leads Aristide supporters to again attack reporters (fwd)

From: Bob Corbett <bobcorbett@earthlink.net>

Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (December 21, 2001 11:12 p.m. EST)
- One radio station has stopped broadcasting the news after
its windows were smashed and reporters sought refuge this
week in foreign embassies following an alleged coup attempt
that spurred 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 palace.

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 legitimize 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 leaders.

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

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 confirmed.

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 elections.

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.
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