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)
- The constitution explicitly upholds press freedom and forbids censorship except in the case of war. In practice, widespread poverty, a corrupt judiciary, violence, intimidation, and a tradition of excessively biased media coverage mean that journalists have had to operate in extremely difficult conditions. However, the situation has slowly and steadily improved over the past few years, and there have been efforts to address the murder of journalists and related problems with impunity.
- The Independent Commission to Support the Investigations of Assassinations of Journalists was launched in 2008 by the president and the local press freedom group S.O.S. Journalistes to assist in the investigation and prosecution of the murderers of journalists in recent years.
- In April 2009, Judge Fritzner Fils-Aime, who was in charge of the investigation of the 2000 murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique, was suspended for “serious acts of corruption.” Two other justice officials involved in the case were also suspended for similar reasons. Fils-Aime was the sixth judge to have led the Dominique murder investigation.
- Defamation remains a criminal offense. In December 2008, a Port-au-Prince court sentenced journalist and press freedom advocate Joseph Guyler Delva to one month in prison for defaming a former senator by stating that he had failed to testify about the Dominique case. Delva announced that he would appeal the court’s decision, but the legal process stalled in 2009, and the authorities had taken no action by year’s end.
- In January 2009, Justice Minister Jean-Joseph Exume threatened and attempted to intimidate a Radio Vision 2000 journalist, Valery Numa, during a radio interview. The interview concerned the alleged theft by judicial officials and police officers of a large sum of money during a November raid on a house belonging to a relative of an alleged drug trafficker near the northern town of Port-de-Paix. When Numa asked the justice minister a series of searching questions regarding his ministry’s handling of the affair, Exume responded by accusing the journalist himself of receiving some of the stolen money and suggesting that he could be arrested. Following protests by media freedom advocates, the minister offered a public apology.
- The private radio station Ideale FM was closed in April after it failed to name the sources for a story about a suspected drug trafficker in Florida. The station was reopened several days later by the justice minister.
- While most Haitian journalists have historically avoided investigative journalism, news coverage continued to grow less partisan and more informative in 2009, reflecting the authorities’ efforts to provide the media with more details and fuller explanations of government actions and policies.
- No journalists were killed or forced to flee the country during the year, and there was a further improvement in the security situation, making it easier for local and foreign journalists to cover the news. However, violence against journalists continued to occur. Supporters of Wilot Joseph, a member of the National Assembly, harassed, intimidated, and physically attacked Sainlus Augustin, a journalist with Voice of the Americas and Radio Kiskeya, during elections for the Haitian Senate in April 2009. Augustin subsequently went into hiding due to continued threats on his life. In July, Augustin’s residence in Hinche was shot at by unknown gunmen. Augustin held Joseph responsible for the incident, as he had earlier expressed his displeasure regarding Augustin’s reporting on election irregularities.
- In December, journalist Edwige Joseph Watson was physically assaulted by police officers while attempting to cover a student protest in Port-au-Prince.
- With more than 300 stations, radio is by far the most popular news medium, and some 90 percent of the population has access to broadcasts. There are four weeklies and two newspapers that publish more than once a week, all privately owned. Television Nationale d’Haiti is government owned, and there are several private television stations. However, Haiti’s television audience is small due to lack of electricity and resources.
- The concentration of wealth among a small number of Haitians negatively affects media outlets’ ability to obtain advertising revenue and sustain themselves financially. Journalists also struggle with low salaries.
- There are no government restrictions on internet access, but the usage rate remained low at just under 10 percent of the population in 2009.