The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply troubled by a recent attack against Radio Métropole political reporter Jean-Numa Goudou, the latest in a series of attacks against Haitian journalists that remain unpunished.
On February 14, a group of people went to Goudou's house in Carrefour, a southwestern suburb of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, and asked to see him, but the political reporter, who also works for the news agency Haiti Press Network, was not there. The group returned late at night and tried to set fire to the reporter's house by burning a vehicle parked in his garage. According to CPJ sources, neighbors managed to put the fire out. No one was injured. In previous attacks against journalists, several sources have identified groups such as these as government supporters.
Goudou told CPJ that he had received threats before the attack. Francois Rothschild, Radio Métropole news director, said that most of the station's reporters have received threats in the last few weeks.
To protest the numerous threats the station has received since the beginning of 2003, Radio Métropole staged an information blackout by not broadcasting on Tuesday, February 18.
The recent attack conforms to a long-standing pattern of intimidation against Haitian journalists. For example, an apparent assassination attempt on Michèle Montas, news director of Port-au-Prince based Radio Haïti-Inter, on December 25, 2002, remains unsolved. A bodyguard was murdered in the incident, which took place at Montas' home. Montas is the widow of Jean Léopold Dominique, a renowned journalist and radio station owner, who was gunned down at Radio Haïti-Inter on April 3, 2000.
Furthermore, there has been little progress in the murder investigation of journalist Brignolle Lindor, who was hacked to death with machetes by a pro-government gang on December 3, 2001.
And six of the seven journalists from four private media outlets in Gonaïves, a town northwest of Port-au-Prince, who went into hiding in December 2002 after being threatened by militants of the Popular Organization for the Development of Raboteau (known as the "Cannibal Army"), a heavily armed group that supports Your Excellency, have fled the country.
Later that month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued "precautionary measures" on behalf of the seven journalists that essentially call on the Haitian government to guarantee the journalists' safety. According to Joseph Guyler Delva, secretary general of the Haitian Journalists Association (AJH), the government did not respond, and six of the journalists fled the country in fear of their lives.
The Haitian government has failed to protect the safety of the country's journalists who are working in an increasingly hostile and unstable environment. Journalists should be able to rely on the government to safeguard their right to free expression so they can report the news without fear of reprisal. As an organization of journalists that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide, we urge you to do everything within your power to ensure that journalists in Haiti are able to work without threats or intimidation.