Well-Known Journalist Gunned Down at Radio StationBy Chris Chapman
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr 5 (IPS/Haitian Times) -- Haitians Wednesday were still reacting with shock and sadness to the murder of well-known journalist Jean Leopold Dominique, who was gunned down as he arrived at work early Monday morning.
Dominique, manager of Radio Haiti Inter and the station's morning news anchor, was killed by a lone gunman. The station's care-taker Jean-Claude Louissaint also died in the incident.
According to Marie Raphaelle Pierre, a journalist at Radio Haiti Inter, the killer presented himself at the gate of the station at around 6 am on Monday, and asked Louissaint to speak to Dominique.
"The man said he didn't know Dominique, but that he needed to speak to him. He asked the caretaker to point Dominique out to him," said Pierre.
When the unsuspecting caretaker duly pointed Dominique out, the man approached the station manager, who was just getting out of his car, and fired several shots at him. The gunman then returned to the gate, shot the caretaker and left, explained Pierre.
Speculation is rife about the motive behind the killing.
"The murder of Jean Dominique can only be a political one," said Jean-Claude Bajeux, former culture minister and a member of Dominique's wife's family. He, however, did not specify what particular sector might be responsible.
Ben Dupuy, leader of the National Popular Party, attributed the killing to former tonton macoutes (secret police under the Duvalier dictatorship) who have found a new vocation as common criminals.
Gerard Pierre Charles, leader of the Organisation for the People in Struggle, said that Dominique's professionalism led him to touch on a wide range of taboo subjects. "He surely upset a lot of people," said Pierre Charles. "But it is too early to point the finger at a particular sector."
"We have no idea what the motive might be," said Pierre. "But anyone who listens to Radio Haiti Inter knows that Dominique was always hostile towards a whole range of things which were being done which prevented democracy progressing in this country."
Dominique was born in Port-au-Prince to a well-to-do family and attended private schools in Haiti and France, studying agronomy.
In the early 1960s, when virtually all of Haiti's news media were owned and used as propaganda outlets by the government, Dominique founded Radio Haiti Inter as a voice of the people. It was the first outlet to broadcast in Creole, the language of most Haitians.
He was a fearless opponent of the Jean-Claude Duvalier regime, and, along with dozens of other journalists and opposition activists, was forced into exile during a crackdown on dissenters in November 1980.
He returned to the country after Duvalier was ousted in 1986, only to flee again at the beginning of the military regime of Raoul Cedras in 1991.
Wilfrid Present, state prosecutor at the Port-au-Prince civil court, said on local radio that the prosecutor's office did not as yet have any reliable information on the identity of Dominique's killer.
Justice Minister Camille Leblanc, who described Dominique as "a central pillar in the struggle for democracy," announced that the judiciary would do all in its power to arrest those responsible.
Haiti's recent history has seen numerous assassinations of major personalities -- Father Ti Jean, Guy Malary, Antoine Izmery, Senator Yvon Toussaint, to name but a few -- many of whom were known as fighters against oppression and injustice. Their murderers have never been brought to justice.
Asked by a journalist about this long list of inconclusive investigations, Justice Minister Leblanc sought to defend the judiciary's record: "When you are leading an investigation, sometimes it can take a long time. But there are many investigations which have reached a conclusion, and we will make sure that this one reaches a conclusion as well."
The stature and popularity of Jean Dominique was evidenced by the flood of well-wishers, including many prominent figures who rushed to the Hospital of the Haitian Community, where he was transported after the attack.
"President Rene Preval, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis along with almost the entire cabinet, Police Chief Pierre Denize, the Human Rights Ombudsman Louis Roy, they all came to pay their respects to the family of the deceased," said Jean Adrien, the hospital's director. The officials, however, issued no statements.
Friends, family and colleagues have been paying moving tribute both to Dominique's professionalism and his attentiveness, since his death.
"When I started working here, I did not have any journalistic experience," explains Pierre. "It was Jean who said, every time I had just presented the news, 'let's listen to the tape and analyse it together.' He always gave me advice, he was the greatest teacher I ever had in my life."
"I have been hearing his voice since I was a child, I always liked to hear his voice," said Marie Therese, a market trader. "I
don't understand why this happened -- someone who is fighting for
Jean Dominique died at the age of 69 and leaves behind his wife, Michele Montas, also a journalist at Radio Haiti Inter, and four children.
Radio Haiti Inter, which had just begun its 6 am news program when the murder took place, ceased transmitting and has remained silent since, although Pierre insists that the station will be operating again very soon.
"This will not stop us working, neither will it alter the station's line -- on the contrary, it should give us strength to go on. The station must speak for all those who cannot speak, just like Jean Dominique always did," he said.
©2002 NCHR -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED -- Last updated: 01 May 2007