Like the proverbial canary in a mine shaft, independent media are a reliable
sign of the health of a democratic government. In
Haiti, judging by the
deteriorating health of its media, democracy is in trouble. Two reports —
one from the Inter American Press Association and another from the Committee
to Protect Journalists — document the regrettable trend.

The Bush administration and Miami District Immigration and Naturalization
Service should pay special attention.
Haiti‘s failing media represent yet
another sign that
Haiti‘s woes no longer can be considered exclusively

Attacks on the media — and the failure of the government of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to stop the attacks or to punish the perpetrators —
are clear evidence of
Haiti‘s simmering political anarchy. Haitians who seek
political asylum in
America no longer should be presumed to be fleeing
economic deprivations. Many now leave in fear of their lives because of
their political activism, or as the reports show, for merely expressing
their views in the media.

Haiti‘s political climate has been spiraling out of control for years. The
attacks on journalists, though onerous, are one manifestation of the
deterioration. Last April, Radio
Haiti owner Jean Leopold Dominique was
assassinated, and in December Radio Plus reporter Gerard Denoze was killed.
Also in December, gunmen attempted to kill Dominique’s widow, Michele
Montas, who had continued his work. Though Ms. Montas was physically unhurt,
one of her bodyguards was slain in the attack. The assaults have continued
unabated this month with separate assaults against two Radio Metropole

Ms. Montas, who is in
Miami to receive an award from the People for the
American Way, announced last week that Radio Haiti transmissions would be
suspended indefinitely in an effort to prevent attacks against other
reporters. Last week, six journalists fled the country. Four of them asked
for political asylum in the
Dominican Republic and the other two arrived in
United States and France with similar requests.

The pattern of the attacks show that the incidents aren’t isolated and that
the Aristide government, whether deliberately or through ineptness, is
unable to stop them.

The judge handling the case of Mr. Dominique’s death is expected to release
a report on the government’s findings within a few weeks. The increased
number and severity of the attacks against journalists is proof of an
organized effort to silence the voice of
Haiti‘s independent media. The Bush
administration must change current
U.S. policy to reflect this new reality.
America historically has been a haven for political refugees. The doors
shouldn’t be slammed on Haitians.