Freedom of the Press

Haiti

Haiti

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

56

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

18

Haiti showed continued improvement in press freedom in 2007 owing to a more secure political atmosphere under the 2006 coalition government and the launch of the Independent Commission to Support the Investigations of Assassinations of Journalists, which yielded prison sentences for several perpetrators of past murders. The constitution explicitly upholds the rights of journalists to freely exercise their profession and forbids censorship except in the case of war. However, in practice, widespread poverty, a corrupt judiciary, and a tradition of excessively partial media coverage mean that journalists operate in extremely difficult conditions. The judicial system’s failure to respond to numerous physical attacks against journalists, including murder, has cast a shadow over the media scene for many years. In this context, there was a significant departure from the norm in August, when President Rene Preval joined forces with the media rights organization SOS Journalistes to launch the Independent Commission to Support the Investigations of Assassinations of Journalists. The commission was given access to police and court documents with the aim of reopening investigations into the murders of at least 10 journalists. Within three weeks, two gang members received life sentences for their part in the July 2005 murder of journalist Jacques Roche. The commission’s work bore more fruit on December 12, when two members of a pro–Lavalas Family Party community organization were sentenced to life for the December 2001 murder of journalist Brignol Lindor. The court also issued arrest warrants for five other members of the same organization and ordered a new investigation to be conducted with the aim of prosecuting the intellectual authors of the crime. Also in December, former police superintendent Daniel Ulysse was arrested in the capital, Port-au-Prince, in connection with the investigation into the April 2000 murder of Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Dominique.

The UN peacekeeping force, MINUSTAH, together with the national police force carried out an offensive against armed gangs in late 2006 and early 2007. The subsequent reduction in violence in many parts of Port-au-Prince made it easier for journalists to go about their work, but the gangs remained a serious threat, and two journalists were killed in 2007. Freelance photojournalist Jean-Remy Badio was shot dead in front of his home in Martissant, in the south of the capital, on January 19. UN security forces said that he was probably killed because of his photographs of gang members. Alix Joseph, station manager and news journalist at Radio-Tele Provinciale in the city of Gonaives, was shot dead on May 16. A journalist colleague said he had received threatening telephone calls protesting the station’s calls for the disarmament of local gangs. Two gang members were later arrested and charged with involvement in the murder. In February and March, Robenson Casseus, a journalist at Radio Nouvelle Generation in Port-au-Prince, was badly beaten, had his house burned down, and received anonymous telephone death threats. He believed that the attacks and threats were in response to his refusal to make favorable broadcasts on behalf of a candidate of an opposition political party. In November, Guy Delva, a Reuters correspondent, reporter for Melodie FM, and head of SOS Journalistes, left the country for three weeks after he received threatening telephone calls and was followed by men who appeared to be preparing an assassination attempt. Delva suggested that the death threats were in retaliation for his reports about the U.S. citizenship of Senator Rudolph Boulos. According to the Haitian constitution, someone who holds a foreign passport cannot be a senator.

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. More than 30 stations broadcast to the capital and surrounding areas, and scores more operate in the provinces. Nevertheless, the majority of radio stations rely on a small range of sources for their news. Thus, a concentration of ownership of the main media houses that generate the news and set the news agenda significantly impacts diversity of coverage. There were no government restrictions on internet access, but usage is low at just over 7 percent of the population in 2007.