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a271: A dozen Haitian journalists leave (fwd)
Haiti Press Network - 7 January
(translated from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group)
Guy Delva, secretary-general of the Haitian Journalists' Association (AJH), has confirmed that a dozen journalists working for different media outfits in Port-au-Prince, left the country last week for the USA or France. These journalists, who covered the attempted coup against President Aristide last 17 December, had taken refuge in certain diplomatic missions in Port-au-Prince. According to their testimonies, some members of popular organisations close to the Lavalas Family government had exerted pressure and issued threats against members of the press, accusing them of favouring the opposition.
Robert PhilomÚ, the top news presenter at Radio Vision 2000, which pro-Aristide protesters had threatened to set on fire, who is also the administrative secretary of the AJH, is currently in France with members of his family. Other reporters and presenters from this station are in the USA. Colleagues from Radio Cara´be, Galaxie and Signal FM have also been issued with limited entry visas permitting them temporary stays in France and the USA. However, according to Guy Delva, "These journalists have not requested political asylum."
Three weeks after the incidents, Radio Cara´be resumed its news broadcasts that have been interrupted since 17 December. Two journalists - Carlo Saintrestil (news director) and Webber Arthus (reporter) - from this radio station that is very popular with the poorer sectors, have also left the country. "Their absence is enormously detrimental to the working of the station," remarked a station spokesperson.
Demonstrators had thrown volleys of stones at the Radio Cara´be building and set two cars found in the station's courtyard on fire. "Although the telephone threats have stopped, the journalists are working under heavy pressure and are avoiding making commentaries," said another radio director. The latter noted that relations between the government and the press had been strained since the murder, on 3 December, of a journalist in Petit-GoÔve. Guy Paul, Minister of Communications, suggested that Brignol Lindor had been killed not because he was a journalist but because he was an opponent."
Despite the assurances given by President Aristide about his government's respect for the freedom of the press, some journalists are known to be worried and others are afraid of the reaction of popular organisations close to the government which do not tolerate press commentaries and criticisms about government actions.
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