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Journalists Unite - Organization is Revived and a Center is Opened

By Trenton Daniel, Haitian Times Staff

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Local journalists in Haiti stood together in solidarity in light of a tense political climate that has surrounded the recent legislative elections. "As the general coordinator of the Association of  Haitian journalists, I'm here to help resurrect the Association of Haitian Journalists" said Guy Delva, a reporter who also organized 100 journalists in April to march in protest of the assassination of Jean Leopold Dominique, an outspoken journalist who was gunned down in April for his critical reporting.

In a country with little tradition of a free press, Delva is spearheading the group to call attention to the often dangerous and difficult conditions Haitian journalists face. Delva and other local journalists are eager to see a dramatic change for the Haitian press. The press in this Caribbean nation viciously came under attack during decades of the Duvalier regimes, and still does, many here said. And at the expense of a crushing economy, journalists here must also contend with skimpy salaries and a lack of professional training and credentials.

But last Wednesday, Latin American Press Freedom Day, two groups of journalists took a stand in favor of press freedom and press rights in Haiti. At Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince, one group brought together local journalists from media to announce the rebirth of the Association of Haitian Journalists, a group that disbanded itself after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from office by a bloody military coup in 1991.

This past Saturday at the Christopher Hotel, in the Bourdon section of  the capital, Delva and more than 150 journalists throughout the country continued what they started a few days before: to appoint a provisional committee for the Association of Haitian Journalists, which will soon start an official committee. Members include Delva, Wilner Morn, Abel Decollines and Guillaume Pierre-Richard. And only a few miles away on the same day, another group of local journalists celebrated the opening of the Haitian Press Center at its new headquarters in Bourdon. "We want to give journalists in Haiti a place where they can come together," said Jean-Pierre Leroy, a reporter for radio station Signal FM, who along with Ivlaine Paul and Wendell Theodore, started the center, which officially opens next week.

The Haitian Press Center, which received five new computers, plans to give seminars on how to use the Internet. The club will also stock journalistic training books and domestic and foreign newspapers in a library. The three journalists invested about $5,000 of their own money 
to create the center. Still, the primary problem facing local journalists today, many of them say, is the political crackdown on press freedom. Since the Duvalier dynasty ended in 1986, journalists believe they can no longer locate the origin of the threats.

"What is difficult right now is, you don't know where the threats come from," said Michele Montas, the widow of Dominique and director of Radio Haiti Inter. She said that before the Duvalier years ended and the coup of President Jean-Bertand Aristide you could blame the military for the threats. "Before then, it was much easier to find out who the enemy was. Now, you don't know. It's very difficult to determine who's who." Robert Philome, a newscaster for Radio Vision 2000, has been the victim of numerous death threats for a couple months because of his radio station's reporting, which prompted him to shut down a popular news program.

The program remains off the air. Philome attributes the threats to Haitian press's political affiliations. "The press here is very divided," he said, noting how many media outlets in Haiti lean different ways in the political spectrum. After six hours at the Christopher Hotel on Saturday, Delva was optimistic about the outcome of press conditions in Haiti. Members of the Association of Haitian Journalists left knowing that a provisional committee was established and that press freedom in Haiti might become a reality.

 

  NCHR Pays Tribute to Jean Léopold Dominique
  Event Photos
  An Alumna Stands Firm in Haiti article in 116th & Broadway
  Press Release:
NCHR to Honor Slain Journalist & Fellow Human Rights Activist
  Program & Benefit Committee
  Printable Donation Form
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Michèle Montas, 3 novembre 2000

 

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