Haiti | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Haiti

Haiti

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

68

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

30

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

Although freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, it is not upheld in practice, and media freedom continues to be threatened by a volatile and often violent political environment in which journalists are intentionally targeted by combatants. Members of the media, whether politically engaged or not, were frequently drawn into the conflict, and politically biased news continued to be the norm. Information supplied by the police and comments made by party leaders frequently were easy to obtain and therefore took priority over independent news gathering. Government efforts to limit journalists' access to emergency rooms, morgues, and the Statistics Office were interpreted as an attempt to obstruct media coverage of the mounting casualties from the continuing violence in the city shantytowns.

Throughout the year, both police spokespeople and government representatives denounced radio stations and journalists that broadcast views deemed favorable to the armed gangs in the capital city's slums, many of whom claim allegiance to ousted president Jean-Bertrande Aristide. Although the authorities claimed they were concerned primarily with the incitement of further violence and disorder, their words have led to allegations of intended censorship, and a number of incidents have occurred in which journalists had their equipment taken or were manhandled or detained by police. In July, the government's council of ministers threatened to impose sanctions on media outlets and journalists promoting "hatred" or interviewing "outlaws." The 15 member organizations of the newly formed Haitian Independent Media Association canceled all news broadcasts and releases for a day in protest.

Despite the interim government's earlier pledges to reopen the cases of Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor, journalists murdered in recent years, no progress in the judicial process for either case has been made. In 2005, three journalists lost their lives as a direct consequence of politically motivated violence. In January, Abdias Jean, a correspondent for a Miami-based radio station, was shot dead, allegedly by police, after he witnessed a police raid on the capital's Village de Dieu shantytown. In April, Laraque Robenson, a reporter for Tele Contact radio in southwestern Petit-Goave, died two weeks after being hit by crossfire as he covered a clash between United Nations peacekeepers and a group of former soldiers. In July, Jacques Roche, a well-known journalist and political activist, was kidnapped and four days later was found dead. The threat of violence led some journalists to practice self-censorship.

There are two newspapers published several times a week and four weeklies, all privately owned. Television Nationale d'Haiti is government owned, and there are several private stations. The illiteracy rate is well over 50 percent, making radio by far the most popular medium. There are more than 30 stations broadcasting to the capital and surrounding areas and scores more in different regions of the country. Radio ownership lies in the hands of the government by law, though it leases broadcast rights to private companies. Despite the large number of stations, news coverage is heavily reliant on foreign news agencies and a handful of the more powerful Port-au-Prince-based media outlets. There were no government restrictions on internet access, though the illiteracy rate and the extent of poverty prevent the internet from being a widespread source of information.