The text that follows is editorial comment by the journalist Jean Dominique, assassinated on April 3, 2000. This editorial was broadcast on Radio Haiti Inter in Port-au-Prince on October 19, 1999.
Can a group of screamers pretend to take Radio Haiti hostage to force it to broadcast their defamatory accusations against honest public functionaries and their racist, anti-mulatto comments? This is the question we asked ourselves yesterday morning when about forty fanatics blocked for four hours the Delmas Road in front of our building. Screams, vociferation, rocks thrown at the front of our building, our iron fence violently shaken. Confronted with our resistance to their terrorism, they took me on personally, with the obvious Macoute slogans against the “Little Reds,” against the “mulattos”, and so forth and so on. Neighbors tried in vain to reason with them. “Gentlemen, Jean Dominique has always been on our side, since 1980, in 1990, in 1991; the front of the building bears witness to that, the bullet holes of the putschists during the coup and afterwards, silence at Radio Haiti ? and Jean and his wife in exile.”
Our neighbors tried in vain to explain to them that those who attacked Jean Dominique, those who attacked Radio Haiti and attack it today are always the same Macoutes, the Duvaliers, the Bennetts, the Jean Valmés, the Constantin Mayard-Pauls, the Cédrases, the Michel Françoises, the spies of the big bourgeois gentlemen who produce poisoned medication, the Serge Beaulieus, the Gérard Georgeses, the Isidor Pognons, as in 1991, the Namphys, the Régalas?
Our brave neighbors who tried to tell the truth were beaten up in front of the gates of Radio Haiti. Beaten up! Other neighbors had identified the two pickup trucks from Pétionville, which brought from time to time new bunches of screamers; one of them bore the license plate H-5678. You see, we kept our eyes open. Drivers and demonstrators questioned freely admitted to having received a few dollars from the major to demonstrate in front of Radio Haiti.
From the major? Dany Toussaint to be sure. But why Radio Haiti for God’s sake? During the campaign unleashed by Dany Toussaint against Robert Manuel, Pierrot Denizé, and the leadership of the police, the following slogan was circulating in Tabarre, “Bob Manuel, Pierrot Denizé and Jean Dominique are Little Reds.” I have thus been for some time the target of Dany Toussaint’s clique within La Fanmi. On the other hand, you may recall a campaign unleashed by the pro-coup media, right after Operation Columbus, aiming at taking control of the Haitian National Police. We used to hear on certain pro-Jean Claude Duvalier radio stations, one day “Bob Manuel attacked the government” and the day after, “Dany Toussaint and Jean-Claude Nord defamed Bob Manuel.” The pro-Duvalier radio stations had no shame in using either slogan as a way of enticing the factions to fight one another.
Our enemies never miss an opportunity to destabilize us. Here at Radio Haiti, during this defamatory campaign, we kept a cool head. Confronting these breaches of the penal code–which should be duly prosecuted–these racist attacks of the purest Macoutist variety, we responded with our strictly professional approach to disseminating information. Clearly our silence and restraint irritated Dany Toussaint and maybe his masters.
With the dismissal of Manuel, a padlock that was blocking Dany Toussaint’s ambitions was knocked out of the way — rather carelessly, it must be acknowledged. Then Dany Toussaint turned against Denizé and Eucher Joseph at the cathedral and today against me. What was circulating at Tabarre as a rumor is being implemented.
While ruminating on these things, I was listening all the same to what was happening in the streets in front of my door. Once they saw that the graffiti targeting me, the hateful screams hurled at me, the beatings inflicted on honest citizens wishing to tell the truth about me did not scare me at all, they decided to negotiate with me. From my balcony, I explained that I would accept the excuses they said they wanted to make only after they erased all the graffiti targeting me. This was done immediately. I then accepted to listen to them, to hear their excuses but I refused to allow them to use our microphone and told them to transmit the following message to Dany Toussaint:
- Dany Toussaint has made mistakes, the person who paid you to try and terrorize me made three mistakes. The first on Saturday at the cathedral when he and his followers tried to take advantage of Jean Lamy’s funeral service to organize an accusatory and slanderous demonstration. To be sure, they slandered Pierre Denizé and Luc Eucher. To be sure, they physically attacked the director general of the national police. To be sure they desecrated under the eyes of Father Aristide a place that should be sacred for all: namely the cathedral of Port-au-Prince, a sacred place for believers and non-believers alike. But Dany Toussaint, in spite of these few gains, was able to assemble only a few individuals inside the cathedral. It was very clear, in spite of the mobilization attempted by the pro-coup media before this funeral mass, in spite of what was said about the popular backing that Lamy enjoyed, there were only a few demonstrators, along with Lamy’s parents and government officials at this service. This is more proof of the tragic erosion of the power to mobilize the population that has been witnessed in Port-au-Prince for some time. Don’t you think that our enemies see this erosion? This was thus Dany Toussaint’s first mistake. In military strategy, to display under the gaze of one’s enemies the weakness of one’s forces is on occasion a capital mistake, the word “capital” being taken in its literal meaning. Is Dany Toussaint a good officer? Has he been a good officer? The answer is beyond my competence, but, he is a lousy strategist!
- His second mistake: intoxicated by the pushing and shoving directed at Pierrot Denizé and Luc Eucher, Dany Toussaint had these paid screamers carry him in triumph on their shoulders under Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s enigmatic gaze. To be sure, the screamers wanted him to be the director-general of the police, but Titid has a sharp eye, he knows how to decode ambitions and his sibylline smile says a lot about the future, but that is their business! It is not mine! I have not fought for thirty years to waste my time deciphering the quarrels among the satraps of Fanmi Lavalas!
- The third mistake of Dany Toussaint was to take me on in front of Radio Haiti! Let us reflect. At the end of Operation Columbus, which was an attack that went on for days while they repeated their slanders and anti-mulatto comments in the media in the good old Macoute tradition, slander that could be taken before a court of law, attacking Radio Haiti yet with the support and applause of all the media–what did they intend? Very simply, those media were trying to have the whole radio audience to themselves, to attack Radio Haiti and force Radio Haiti to broadcast his comments. This means that the only thing that counts for Dany Toussaint is to be “heard on Radio Haiti.” Reflecting on this I am reminded of the saying by Choderlos de Laclos, that “slander is the compliment that vice pays to virtue,” and that the second consequence for our detractors is that they have acknowledged the independent-Lavalas nature of Radio Haiti, which I stress is independent from all centers of power.
Returning now to the cathedral: the mistake of Dany Tousaint was to think that a bit of terror on the part of a few street gangsters of the “Young Popular Power” group would give him access to our microphone. This was to underestimate two key points: Here we don’t give the floor to anyone! We don’t give the floor to slander. We know that true justice is not created by screaming fanatics, more or less well paid! We know that the burglars leaving the house they have robbed are the first to yell, “Stop, thief!” How could a serious judge pay attention to these “Stop, thief ” shouts while investigating the looting of a house ? (cynical laughter). Let us be serious!
And so I asked myself the question: During this whole campaign unleashed in all the media, Dany Toussaint never once called me. Neither he nor Jean Claude Nord called Radio Haiti to make any kind of declaration about themselves or the results of the investigation of the death of Jean Lamy they said they were making. Never! It’s strange, this silence! Then he unleashes this campaign to force me to turn over the microphone to him. My response is as follows: Dany Toussaint knows perfectly well that if he gives me the results of his investigation I will as a professional journalist ask him privately or publicly questions that might bring out the contradictions in the findings of the investigation. He knows that, and that is why he prefers to use the street to pressure me.
The murder of Jean Lamy, the attack on Mario Andresol, the recent assassination of a dozen police officers, the murder of Yvon Toussaint, the murder attempt against Marie-Claude Calvin Préval all aroused from us on Radio Haiti the anger of the citizenry and the indignation of Lavalas, prompting us to fight again for justice, transparency, and popular participation, while at the same time we acutely followed, as the whole world knows, in a professional journalistic fashion the preparations for the Raboteau trial. We may have been the only ones in the media following this preparation. But for us there is only one motivation, when an individual uses the still-fresh corpse of a comrade to serve his personal ambition! Saturday’s spectacle at the cathedral was for us, bluntly put, repugnant! These were the elements of the message that I asked my three interlocutors to transmit to Dany Toussaint.
I will close with this last consideration: If they keep trying to use these screamers in front of Radio Haiti Inter to shut down the Delmas Road, he will break his teeth! The microphone of Radio Haiti will stay closed to him! But I know that he has weapons! I know that he has the money to pay and arm his followers. Here, I have no other weapon than my journalist’s pen! And my microphone and my unquenchable faith as a militant for true change! And let me be perfectly clear, I will not turn over to any free-rider in the world a monopoly over Lavalas, no matter who it is!
If Dany Toussaint tries anything else against me or the radio and if I am still alive, I will close the place down after I have denounced these maneuvers one more time and I will go in exile once more with my wife and children.
In 1991 the friends of Dany Toussaint tried desperately to take over Radio Haiti, I resisted them alone! With my faith, intelligence, and professional experience. At the time I understood that behind the politicians preparing the coup d’état, behind certain friendships — because there were dissidents among them who frequented the salons of the great ladies of Lavalas! — there was a stubborn will on the part of one?and I had understood on September 30, 1991 and later on, Jean-Bertrand Aristide and René Préval told me, “You were right!” They wanted to take over Radio Haiti to prepare a coup d’état. That’s what happened!
Today I ask the same question: Is this the same maneuver? The parish priest of Dessalines was saying on Sunday in the presence of the head of state that new coup plotters were trying to destabilize the government. In 1991 I told Jean-Bertrand Aristide and René Préval, “Don’t trust Cédras.” Titid replied, “Cédras and I, we are married.” Sad marriage! With AIDS. Titid is stubborn. Although he is stubborn he must understand that it is not his person alone nor his sense of power that hangs in the balance in this affair.
Over Radio Haiti, there is a silence to awaken the dead, the five thousand dead of the coup d’état, this is the truth that must emerge from this insignificant exercise in intimidation today. This is the truth that it is right to speak of this morning, the truth of a free man.
Earlier I cited another free man, Laclos. I close with Shakespeare: “The truth will always make the face of the devil blush!”