Haiti | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Haiti

Haiti

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

66

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

28

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

Despite improvements during 2004, press freedom in Haiti remains curtailed by political instability, political persecution of journalists, and the ongoing economic crisis. Freedom of expression is protected in the constitution but not properly upheld in practice. Advances in media freedom can be traced back to the change of government that occurred in late February, when former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country following a violent uprising and was replaced by an interim government headed by installed prime minister Gerard Latortue, who took office March 17.

In the period before the president's ouster, as political opposition gave way to armed insurgency, many journalists sided openly with the opposition and a smaller number adhered to a pro-government line. Conflict between supporters of Aristide and his Lavalas movement on the one side and the political opposition on the other resulted in attacks against journalists, with the majority inflicted by pro-Aristide gangs on journalists sympathetic to the opposition. Radio Maxima in Cap-Haitien was forced to close in February after threats and harassment by Aristide supporters; its director, Jean Robert Lalane, had been shot and wounded earlier. For its part, anti-government rebels and their supporters vandalized and set fire to the pro-government Radio Africa and Radio Tele Kombit stations in Cap-Haitien after capturing the city on February 21. Aristide's departure on February 29 was generally viewed as a positive development for press freedom.

Though threats and violence directed at journalists persisted during and after the transition to the interim government, they were confined mostly to small cities and rural areas under the control of illegal armed groups and directed primarily at journalists connected to pro-Aristide media outlets, contrasting with what prevailed during Aristide's rule. The transitional month of March was particularly dangerous for journalists, with threats forcing Radio Solidarite to stop broadcasting for more than a month and a reported shooting at the home of Elysee Sincere, a Radio Vision 2000 correspondent. On March 7, Ricardo Ortega, a Spanish television correspondent, was killed and Michael Laughlin, a reporter for the Florida-based Sun Sentinel, was wounded when gunmen opened fire on demonstrators celebrating the end of the Aristide regime one week earlier.

As the interim government moved to assert its authority in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other areas, numerous media outlets in provinces controlled by armed groups continued to report threats and harassment throughout the year, causing many journalists to practice self-censorship and some to go into hiding. The interim government and pro-opposition press largely failed to speak out against the abuses, which were directed mostly at journalists affiliated with pro-Aristide outlets. The interim government has also been reportedly involved in repression of some media activities. For example, in May officials from the interim government detained a cameraman and closed a radio and television station owned by the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, founded by the former president. The interim government has pledged to reopen cases of journalists attacked and killed during the recent years of the Aristide government, but little progress has been made.

Several private dailies and weeklies publish, and more than 250 private radio stations provide a diversity of views. Owing to the low literacy rate (estimated at between 50 and 60 percent of the population) and the widespread use of Creole, radio is the most important medium in the country. However, up to one third of the stations operate without proper licenses.