Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Status change explanation: Haiti’s press freedom rating improved from Not Free to Partly Free as a result of improvements in the legal and political environments in which journalists operate, resulting from a new, more media-tolerant government elected in April and a reduction in overall political tensions.
After several years during which media freedom was severely compromised by the actions—often violent—of both state and nonstate actors, there was a welcome improvement in the media environment during 2006. Following elections in February and April, a new coalition government was formed, led by President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis. A subsequent reduction in political tensions and the new government’s tolerance towards independent media were significant changes. Freedom of expression is safeguarded in Section C of the 1987 constitution, including protections against censorship and the right not to reveal sources. However, the persistence of a climate of impunity—particularly in the context of several murders of journalists—remains a serious obstacle to further improvement in the media environment. For example, there has been no progress with ongoing judicial investigations into the cases of Jean Dominique or Brignol Lindor, two journalists murdered in recent years. Throughout 2006, a new media rights organization, SOS Journalistes, was active in support of media workers and in trying to improve the quality of media coverage. The relaunch in August of the previously moribund Syndicat National des Travailleurs de la Presse d’Haiti was another sign of an improving media situation.
Unlike in the previous six years, no journalists were killed in 2006 and there were few attacks on the media. However, many reporters remained too afraid to venture into certain parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where, after a lull of several months following the presidential election in February, armed clashes between gunmen and the authorities resumed. Simultaneously, a wave of kidnappings for ransom in and around Port-au-Prince posed a serious problem affecting all social sectors. A number of journalists were kidnapped, but there were no indications that they had been targeted specifically because of their profession. In September, a gang leader in the Solino neighborhood of the capital and one of the suspected murderers of journalist Jacques Roche, kidnapped and killed in July 2005, was handed over to the Haitian police after he turned himself in to UN troops and requested participation in a national disarmament and reinsertion campaign. However, no information about a trial or charges against him has been released.
Some of the main Port-au-Prince-based media houses—members of the Association Nationale des Medias Haitiens—continued to take a hostile editorial position with regard to the residents of certain shantytowns where support for the exiled Lavalas Family party leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide was believed to remain strong. However, the previously stark political divisions within the media community began to diminish during the year, and news coverage and analysis took on a more neutral tone. With the new government making notable efforts to provide greater access to information—particularly regarding the economy and development issues—the media as a whole, and the print media especially, were able to provide more detailed and informative news.
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, including Telemax, purchased by the Haitian-American music star Wyclef Jean in November 2005. The illiteracy rate is over 50 percent, making radio by far the most popular medium. More than 30 stations broadcast to the capital and surrounding areas, and scores more operate in the provinces. News coverage is heavily reliant on the output of foreign news agencies and a handful of the more powerful Port-au-Prince-based media outlets. There were no government restrictions on internet access, and usage has increased to just over 7 percent of the population. However, the illiteracy rate and the extent of poverty prevent the internet from being a widespread source of information.