HAITI

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The state of chaos that has reigned in Haiti over the past several weeks has made it difficult to obtain firsthand reports on the status of press freedom in the country, except through the foreign media, which have reported dozens of incidents against radio stations and journalists. José Ricardo Ortega, a Spanish correspondent in New York for the Spanish television network Antena 3, lost his life in Port-au-Prince on Sunday, March 7. Michael Laughlin, a photographer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was injured in the same incident. According to witnesses, alleged supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fired on demonstrators who were celebrating Aristide’s departure, leaving five people dead and dozens injured. On Saturday, February 21, Pierre Elisem, owner and news director of Radio Hispaniola in Trou du Nord, was attacked by unknown assailants who shot him in the neck and stomach as he was traveling in his vehicle toward the northern part of the country. With the humanitarian aid from the Committee for the Protection of Journalists and the IAPA, Elisem was taken for medical attention to the Dominican Republic, where he remains hospitalized. Prior to the intervention of an international peacekeeping force approved by the United Nations, the offices of Radio Vision 2000 in Port-au-Prince were shot up on several occasions. Days earlier, six journalists were attacked by demonstrators, and the facilities of the Hispaniola, Africa, and Tele Kombit radio stations were set on fire. Personnel at Radio Solidarité received death threats. Six foreign journalists were injured or assaulted, and at least two were pressured to alter the content of visual material to be sent out of the country. Earlier, on December 17, 2003, Radio Maxima, which is known for its opposition to Aristide, was raided and its equipment was destroyed by the police, who closed the station down. The station is located in Cap-Haitien and its news director, Jean Robert Lalanne, had been assaulted on November 25.

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