16 October 2014
Freedom of the press continues to be threatened by the restriction imposed by the government on public access to information, and by threats and violence against journalists, claims for defamation as a tool for coercion and the extremely harsh working conditions journalists are subject to. It is clear that these restrictions cause self-censoring on mass media due to fear of retaliation by the government. In addition, journalists are restricted by material limitations and by the fact that journalism is sometimes biased which generates mistrust on the part of the public. The government and the private sector exercise undue pressures by means of intimidation and bribery, which is common among the local journalism that takes advantage of the economic difficulties faced by journalists. At least five journalists suffered physical and verbal attacks during August and September in the city of Petit-Goâve. On September 9th, the director of Radio Préférence FM, GuytoMathieu, who is also a correspondent of the website HaitiLibre alleged they had been the object of insults and derogatory comments. A group opposing the local government is held liable of those verbal attacks. Mathieu is an advocate of the parliament member Jacques Stevenson Thimoléon. Another journalist who supports the same legislator in Petit-Goâve, Ephesien Joseph, was attacked on August 29th, according to reports from the local press. His colleague, Duralph Emmanuel François was also attacked. Similarly, the director of Radio Vision Plus, GibsonneBasile was threatened of arrest by a local judge. In connection with the risk of self-censoring during this period, on April 8th, the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) warned the radio stations that “systematically broadcast biased information to disturb public order, destabilize the public institutions and attempt against the integrity of many of our citizens”. CONATEL threatened the application of sanctions in the event the media infringes the conditions on the delivery of information according to legal criteria in force since 1977. These sanctions include fines and go as far as being removed the broadcast license. Human Rights and press activists indicated these warnings were intended to promote self-censoring among journalists. The Ministry of the Interior of Haiti took distance from CONATEL’s position: he said they would investigate the facts and showed commitment with the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.