Originally: CPJ SENDS LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER
September 18, 2002
TO: Mr. Yvon Néptune
Prime Minister, Republic of Haiti
Office of the Prime Minister
Via facsimile: 011-509-298-3900
Mr. Prime Minister:
On behalf of the delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ), which included board members Clarence Page, Franz Allina, and
Paul Tash; CPJ Americas program coordinator Carlos Lauría; and me, I
would like to thank you for the opportunity to meet with you on
August 13 to discuss press freedom conditions in your country during
our five-day visit last month.
According to journalists who spoke with us in Haiti, violence and
threats against members of the media have created a hostile and
unstable working environment for the press there. The lack of
progress in the investigations into high-profile murders, as well as
ongoing attacks and threats, has fostered a climate of impunity,
leading many journalists to flee the country.
Based on CPJ research, Haiti ranks as one of the most violent places
to practice journalism in the Western Hemisphere, second only to
Colombia. The Haitian government must act promptly to prevent
violence, intimidation, and impunity by thoroughly investigating
those attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
We welcome your commitment to review a list of press freedom abuses
documented by CPJ and to inform us about the status of judicial
investigations into those cases within a month of receiving this
letter. Please find attached a list of 11 press freedom violations
documented by CPJ since 2000. We would appreciate receiving
additional information about these cases, including when were they
last actively investigated. In the future, CPJ will ask for periodic
updates to determine the progress in each case of murder, attack, or
threat against journalists who have been targeted for their
We would also like to receive detailed information about the status
of the investigations into the murders of journalists Jean Dominique,
killed in 2000, and Brignol Lindor, murdered in 2001, as well as
details about the inquiry into the 2002 murder of Michèle Montas’
We remind you that during our meeting with Minister of Justice and
Public Security Calixte Delatour on August 13, the minister stated
that he would report to CPJ on the status of that case within two
weeks of the meeting. CPJ has not received any information from
Minister Delatour, and we ask you to urge him to reply as soon as
CPJ values the opportunity to engage the Haitian government in a
productive dialogue about press freedom and encourages authorities to
make clear that acts of violence and intimidation against journalists
will not be tolerated.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward
to hearing from you.
Ann K. Cooper
LIST OF PRESS FREEDOM ABUSES DOCUMENTED BY CPJ
Jean Léopold Dominique, Radio Haïti Inter
April 3, 2000
Dominique, 69, the outspoken owner and director of the independent
station Radio Haïti Inter, was shot dead by an unknown gunman who
also killed the station’s security guard, Jean Claude Louissaint.
Shortly after 6 a.m. on April 3, Dominique arrived at Radio Haïti
Inter to host the 7 a.m. news program, according to CPJ sources in
Haiti. After Louissaint opened the gate to the station’s premises,
which are along the road from Port-au-Prince to the suburb of
Pétionville, Dominique parked his car inside. As he was about to
enter the radio station, a single gunman entered the compound on foot
and shot him seven times.
The gunman then fired two shots at Louissaint before escaping in a
Jeep Cherokee that had been waiting for him outside the compound.
The assassin was said to have been spotted near the station before
Dominique’s arrival, although his weapon was not visible at that
time. Minutes after the attack, Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas,
arrived at the station in a separate car and found the wounded bodies
of her husband and Louissaint. Both victims died of their wounds in
the Haitian Community Hospital in Pétionville.
After questioning more than 80 suspects, including Famni Lavalas
senator Dany Toussaint, and ordering six arrests, examining judge
Claudy Gassant left Haiti for the United States in January 2002
saying he had received inadequate protection from threats.
Though not officially accused, FL senator Dany Toussaint is widely
suspected of masterminding Dominique’s murder in reprisal for an
October 1999 editorial that criticized him sharply.
On March 21 2003, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, who replaced Gassant, sent
a 33-page indictment to prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis accusing
Dymsley Millien, Jeudi-Jean Daniel, Philippe Markington, Ralph Léger,
Ralph Joseph, and Freud Junior Desmarattes of the killing.
On April 3, Michèle Montas, Dominque’s widow, appealed the
indictments, saying that the investigation into her husband’s killing
was “incomplete,” and that the indictments “failed to charge the
masterminds behind the murder.” On August 3, the Court of Appeals
ordered a new investigation into the murder and released three of the
six accused of perpetrating the killing: Freud Junior Desmarattes,
Ralph Léher and Ralph Joseph. A new examining magistrate will carry
out a new investigation.
Lilianne Pierre-Paul, Radio Kiskeya
January 9, 2001
Pierre-Paul, co-owner and program director of the independent
Port-au-Prince station Radio Kiskeya, was threatened by Paul Raymond,
leader of the religious organization “Ti Kominote Legliz”, during a
That same day, an unidentified individual tried to set Radio
Kiskeya’s offices on fire.
Raymond’s organization supports the ruling Lavalas Family party.
During his remarks at the press conference, Raymond read names from a
list of people who he claimed were planning to form a shadow
The list included Pierre-Paul. Raymond gave those mentioned three
days to distance themselves from the alleged plot, threatening
violence should they not comply.
During his remarks, Raymond said Pierre-Paul’s name belonged on the
list because she always referred to the lawmakers who won a seat in
the controversial May 2000 parliamentary elections as “contested
Pierre-Paul told CPJ that at 7 p.m. that same evening, staff members
found a gallon of gasoline in a plastic bag in the station’s
courtyard. Gasoline had also been poured on the ground.
A security guard and some neighbors later claimed to have seen
someone running away from the offices just before the gasoline was
discovered. The next day, a match was found stuck in the gate.
Local police declined to investigate the incident because there was
no actual fire.
Pierre-Paul told CPJ that she received death threats on a weekly
basis, mostly by mail. In insulting terms, the anonymous letters
accused Pierre-Paul of corruption.
Roosevelt Benjamin, Signal FM
June 9, 2001
Benjamin, news director at the radio station Signal FM, based in the
Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétionville, received a series of telephone
threats after a June 9 broadcast of his weekly political talk show
“Moment Vérité” (Moment of Truth).
Benjamin told CPJ that one hour after his program, he received an
anonymous call on his cell phone. “I see you are meddling in affairs
that are none of your business,” the caller said. “But we can force
you to be silent.”
Five minutes later, the same man called again, this time telling
Benjamin that he knew where the journalist lived and what car he
drove. The next day at around 5 p.m., Benjamin received similar
threats from a different caller. After the program was rebroadcast on
the night of June 11, Benjamin received another, apparently
threatening, call in which the caller remained silent.
All four calls were made with a prepaid phone card, Benjamin said,
making it impossible for him to identify the callers.
Benjamin believes that he was threatened for stating, during his June
9 broadcast, that a recently launched political organization called
the Majority Civil Society Movement (“Mouvement de la Société Civile
Majoritaire”) was dominated by the relatives of senators from the
ruling Lavalas Family.
On June 13, CPJ wrote a letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
expressing its profound concern over the threats.
Brignolle Lindor, Radio Echo 2000 KILLED
December 3, 2001
A machete-wielding mob murdered Lindor, news director of the private
station Radio Echo 2000, based in the coastal town of Petit-Goâve,
some 40 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
At 11 a.m., Lindor and a colleague were driving to one of Lindor’s
other jobs, as a customs official. Their car was ambushed by
supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL)
Lindor’s colleague fled, but Lindor was attacked and killed after he
tried to take refuge in the nearby home of a local town counselor.
Lindor hosted the political talk show “Dialogue.” He had received
numerous threats from local authorities for inviting members of the
15-party opposition coalition Democratic Convergence (CD) to appear
on his show.
After Aristide launched a “zero tolerance” anti-crime campaign in
June, implying that street criminals caught red-handed could be
summarily punished without trial, Petit-Goâve deputy mayor Dumé Bony
announced in public that the “zero tolerance” policy should be
applied to Lindor.
Meanwhile, opposition parties and human rights groups accused
Aristide of issuing a carte blanche for extrajudicial executions.
Lindor’s December 11 funeral turned violent when police used
bludgeons and tear gas on fdmourners who were shouting anti-Aristide
slogans, according to wire reports.
In this case, 10 men belonging to a popular organization known as
“Domi Nam Bwa (Asleep in the Woods) have been indicted, and two have
been arrested. At this time only one of the accused, Maxi Zéphyr,
remains in prison. No trials dates have been set.
Roosevelt Benjamin, Signal FM Evelyne Dacelus, Signal FM Carl
Dieudonné, Signal FM Jean-Claudy Saint-Cyr, Signal FM
January 22, 2002
Signal FM journalists Benjamin, Dacelus, Dieudonné, and Saint-Cyr
were traveling in the radio’s staff bus, clearly marked as a Signal
FM vehicle, to cover a conference in southern Haiti when the driver
of a car from the president’s National Palace attempted to run the
bus off the road and aimed a machine gun at the passengers, said
The bus driver then lost control of the vehicle and crashed into
another car. The man driving the National Palace car left the scene
after the accident. The journalists were not injured and returned to
Signal FM to report the incident, said Benjamin. He told CPJ that the
National Palace car appeared to have been waiting for them.
That evening, the National Palace Press Service issued a communiqué
calling the alleged attack on the reporters “pure invention” and
denied that the vehicle and the driver were from the palace. Two days
later, however, in response to protests from Haitian media and human
rights associations, National Palace spokesperson Jacques Maurice
called Signal FM and acknowledged the attack.
According to Signal FM and several witnesses, Franz Gabriel, who is
also President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s helicopter pilot, was seen
driving the National Palace car during the attack.
Esdras Mondélus, Radio Étincelle Henry Fleurimond, Radio Étincelle
Renais Noël Jeune, Radio Étincelle Jean Niton Guérino, Radio
Étincelle Gédéon Présandieu, Radio Étincelle René Josué, Signal FM
Jean-Robert François, Radio Métropole Guyler Delva, Association of
November 21, 2002
Journalists from four privately owned media outlets? Mondélus, Jeune,
Présandieu, and Guérino of Radio Étincelle; Fleurimond of Radio
Kiskeya; Josué of Signal FM; and François from Radio Métropole? based
in Gonaïves, a seaside town northwest of Haiti’s capital,
Port-au-Prince, went into hiding after receiving menacing telephone
calls and verbal threats for covering opposition protests in Gonaïves
and the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, CPJ sources said.
Reporters told CPJ that the threats came from a pro-Aristide group
that was angered by the journalists’ coverage of both a student march
in Gonaïves and a massive opposition rally in Cap-Haïtien that drew
The attack came after the station had suspended broadcasting on
November 21 in the face of threats from militants of the Popular
Organization for the Development of Raboteau, a heavily armed
populist group commonly known as the “Cannibal Army.” The group
accused the station of “working for the opposition” and threatened to
burn the station’s studio, CPJ sources said.
The militants were angered over the station’s coverage of both a
student march in Gonaïves and an opposition rally in the northern
city of Cap-Haïtien that drew thousands.
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. In February 2003, the radio journalists, with the
exception of Mondélus, fled the country fearing for their lives.
Radio Étincelle ATTACKED, THREATENED
November 25, 2002
Unidentified assailants set fire to Radio Étincelle’s studio,
damaging a generator and other equipment. The station’s director and
owner, as well as three of its reporters, went into hiding. The
attack came after the station had suspended broadcasting on November
21 in the face of threats from militants of the Popular Organization
for the Development of Raboteau, a heavily armed populist group
commonly known as the “Cannibal Army.” The group accused the station
of “working for the opposition” and threatened to burn the station’s
studio, CPJ sources said. The militants were angered over the
station’s coverage of both a student march in Gonaïves and an
opposition rally in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien that had drawn
Michèle Montas, Radio Haïti-Inter
December 25, 2002
At around 5:30 p.m., a few minutes after Montas, news director of
Port-au-Princebased Radio Haïti-Inter, had returned to her home in
Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, two heavily armed gunmen
appeared on foot. As the assailants tried to enter her home, two
security guards shut the gate. The gunmen then opened fire, killing
security guard Maxim Séide. Neither Montas nor the second bodyguard
was injured in the attack.
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. Montas has run the station since then, anchoring the
As the gunmen fled on foot, police cordoned off the area outside
Montas’ house to investigate. At year’s end, no arrests had been
made. Montas has criticized the slow investigation into her husband’s
On January 8 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(IACHR) granted Montas precautionary measures, asking the Haitian
government to take the necessary actions to protect her personal
integrity and to investigate the attacks against her.
On February 22, Radio Haïti-Inter stopped broadcasting because of
constant threats and harassment. Since then, Montas and journalists
Jean Roland Chery, Immacula Placide, Guerlande Eloi, Pierre Emmanuel
and Gigi Dominique have left Haiti and are living in exile.
Jean-Numa Goudou, Radio Métropole
February 14, 2003
A group of alleged government supporters tried to set fire to the
house of Goudou, a political reporter with Port-au-Prince-based Radio
Métropole, by burning a vehicle parked in his garage (make a call to the guys from garage door repair webster for any repairs or maintenance). No one was
At around 12 p.m., the group visited 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
that night and burned a car parked in his garage. Neighbors managed
to put out the fire.
Radio Métropole news director François Rothschild told CPJ that most
of the station’s reporters had received threats weeks before the
attack. In protest, Radio Métropole staged an information blackout on
Tuesday, February 18, and did not broadcast. About a month after the
attack, Goudou left Haiti and is now living in exile.
Lilianne Pierre-Paul, Radio Kiskeya THREATENED
April 30, 2003
Pierre-Paul, co-owner and program director of the independent
Port-au-Prince-based Radio Kiskeya, received a threatening letter
containing a 12 mm bullet cartridge demanding that she read a
statement on the air calling on France to pay Haiti US$21.7 million
to compensate for the amount that Haiti paid the French government in
1938 for recognition of Haiti’s independence.
According to CPJ sources, the letter was signed by pro-government
militias including the “Cannibal Army” and “Domi Nan Bwa,” which are
close to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party. The militias are the most
visible threats to journalists in Haiti, continuously harassing and
intimidating members of the media and accusing them of “working for
Pierre-Paul said she has received death threats since 2001, mostly by
mail. The letters, usually anonymous, accuse Pierre-Paul of
corruption and working for the opposition.
Police said they were investigating the threats but have not made any
arrests. Pierre-Paul was offered police protection, but she refused.
“I want to walk freely and do my job without any interference. I
won’t be able to do it with a bodyguard protecting me,” she said.
On January 9, 2001, Pierre-Paul received threats during a press
conference. Paul Raymond, leader of the pro-Fanmi Lavalas religious
organization Ti Kominote Legliz, read names from a list of people he
claimed were planning to form a shadow government. The list included
Pierre-Paul. Raymond gave those mentioned three days to distance
themselves from the alleged plot, threatening violence if they did
That same day, an unidentified individual tried to set Radio
Kiskeya’s offices on fire. In September 2002, the station was forced
to go off the air after receiving information that unidentified
individuals were going to burn it down.
Jean Louis Kenson, Signal FM
Calas Alex, Radio Lakansyèl
Joel Deriphonse, Kadans FM
Joseph Desrameaux, Radio Phare
July 12, 2003
Kenson, Alex, Deriphonse and Desrameaux?journalists from four
privately owned radio stations in Port-au-Prince? were injured when
supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide threw rocks,
disrupting a meeting of 184 civil society groups that were gathered
to discuss social problems in Haiti.
Around 300 people, representing labor, business and human rights
groups, had scheduled a meeting in the Aristide stronghold of Cite
Soleil to discuss the deteriorating political and economic situation
in Haiti, according to local press reports.
The civil society groups started a motorcade from the airport. While
entering Cité Soleil they encountered more than 1,000 Aristide
partisans, who tried to block the caravan and threw rocks at the
As a result of the attack two of the journalists were hospitalized.
Desrameaux suffered head injuries, and Alex had two broken ribs. Both
of them were released after receiving treatment for their wounds,
Guyler Delva secretary general of the Association of Haitian
Journalists, told CPJ.