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a200: Haiti : Press's situation still tense after alleged coup attempt (fwd)

From: RSF Americas <ameriques@rsf.org>

<fontfamily><param>Geneva</param>This information was released by RSF
on December 21 2001.

Press freedom

21 December 2001


Press's situation still tense after alleged coup attempt

In a letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, RSF expressed its
serious concern after close to a dozen journalists, including
Ives-Marie Chanel, a radio journalist and RSF's correspondent in
Port-au-Prince, were the victims of intimidation. In addition, no
measures have been taken to assure the protection of radio stations
that have been threatened. "Despite the tragic murder of Brignol
Lindor, accusations by your supporters that certain journalists are
members of the opposition continue," deplored RSF Secretary-General
Robert Ménard. "The absence of measures to protect threatened newsrooms
and public radio's participation in the intimidaton campaign negate the
commitment you made on 17 December to see to it that press freedom is
respected," the organisation deplored. RSF urged the president to allow
a return to calm by taking measures to guarantee the security of
threatened journalists and media outlets. RSF also urged Aristide to
give his supporters very clear orders to end their intimidation of
press representatives.

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. Three days earlier, the Petit-Goâve mayor's assistant had
called for the "zero tolerance" policy to be applied against the
journalist after he received opposition figures as guests on his radio
programme. Since October, an estimated forty journalists have been
threatened or assaulted by government supporters who accuse them of
being too critical of the government.

Climate of insecurity persists

According to information collected by RSF, the Haitian press's
situation had yet to be normalised four days after the 17 December
alleged coup d'état's failure. Close to ten journalists remain in
hiding as they feel threatened. Five journalists have reportedly sought
refuge in embassies and allegedly wish to leave the country. At least
two of the four radio stations that were forced to cease broadcasting
on 17 December have reported that the police have not offered them any
protection. Yet, during a recent speech, President Aristide had
commited himself to ensuring that press freedom is respected. Moreover,
on 11 December, a meeting of media outlets and the police was
organised. The police had sought the meeting in an effort to improve
its relationship with the press.

Private radio stations, a majority of which either suspended their news
bulletins or ceased broadcasting altogether on 17 December, have
gradually started rescheduling their normal programming. However, Radio
Caraïbes FM announced that it was suspending its news programmes until
January 2002. Cap-Haitien based Radio Maxima has also yet to start
broadcasting its news programmes again. Station director Jean Robert
Lalanne explained that this is due to the continued sense of insecurity
felt by the station's journalists. The persistent climate of insecurity
has also led Radio Kiskeya to continue its suspension of the call-in
programme "Dim ma diw" ("From You to Me"), in which listeners
occasionally express very strong views.

RSF has also learned that on 19 December, Thony Jean Ténor, a Haitian
citizen residing in Florida (USA), stated on the public radio station
Radio Nationale that Chanel worked for the Organisation du peuple en
lutte (OPL, an opposition party). Interviewed by Radio Nationale news
director Jean Th. Pierre-Louis, Ténor also stated that Chanel was among
the persons who were "frustrated" by the coup d'état's failure. On 18
December, the journalist issued a statement on Radio Kafou, a
Florida-based Haitian community station. He stated that he was saddened
by the violence in Haiti and highlighted the climate of insecurity for
local journalists. Since Chanel's comments on Radio Kafou, station
director Alex Saint Surin has stated that he has been the object of
attacks by Florida-based pro-Lavalas radio stations. Chanel is director
of Radio Sans-Souci FM, programming director of Radio Ibo, and
Haiti-based correspondent for the Inter Press Service (IPS) agency and


On 17 December, about thirty armed men attacked the presidential palace
in Port-au-Prince at dawn. A few hours later, security forces stormed
the palace and regained control. Several thousand Aristide supporters
took to the streets after an appeal by the president. Armed with
machetes, sticks and pistols, they threatened about ten journalists.
Some protesters told one of the journalists, "we would have killed you
if you were a Radio Caraïbes journalist." Four private radio stations
based in the capital ceased broadcasting for security reasons. The
demonstrators also attacked several opposition parties' offices. The
opposition has since labelled the failed coup attempt a "set up"
against it.

<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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