IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018

Medellín, Colombia

The disappearance of a young news photographer rekindled the danger that exists for the practice of journalism in the country, in a period in which the state of press freedom and freedom of expression continued to register concrete threats against reporters and pressures by those in power on the media for them to provide in an obligatory manner information to the authorities.

The Chamber of Deputies threw out an anti-defamation bill approved by the Senate in March 2017 and widely questioned for including heavy punishments of journalists or individuals found guilty of defaming public officials and policemen. What was interpreted as good news at the parliamentary level ended up overshadowed in the Executive area, which gave rise to a resurgence of old fears on designating at the front of the new Armed Forces collaborators of the repression, one of them judged while not in court for crimes against humanity.

On March 14 news photographer Vladjimir Legagneur, 30, went missing in a neighborhood known as Grand Ravine, in the dangerous and poor district of Martissant in the Haitian capital, while doing a report in the area. His wife, Fleurette Guerrier, denounced the slow reaction by the police to investigate the case.

Ombudsman Renan Hedouville issued a communique that urged the authorities to "intensify their efforts" to determine Legagneur's whereabouts. This followed similar requests by national and international press organizations.

On March 28 a march staged in Port-au-Prince brought together dozens of journalists, activists and human rights defenders in favor of the reappearance of the news photographer, on the same day that the police reported on the finding of a body in the area where the disappearance happened that would be subjected to DNA testing.

The Communication Ministry had issued the first official government reaction three days before the parade and assured that there was an investigation underway to dertermine the victim's whereabouts.

In recent decades several journalists were murdered and the cases continue to go unpunished: Félix Lamy (December 10, 1991), Jean Léopold Dominique (April 3, 2000), Jacques Roche (July 14, 2005), Jean Richard Louis-Charles (February 9, 2011) and Jean Liphète Nelson (Mach 5, 2012), to mention some.

In February Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report that in Haiti "privately-owned news media, subject to the interests of their shareholders, have difficulties to express their points of view; there is great self-censorhip" and that "journalists continue to lack the financial resources and the support of the institutions; they face difficulties of access to informaiton and some have been victims of intimidation and aggressions."

En Gonaïves (northeast Haiti) several journalists reported in the second half of 2017 death threats from people and groups linked to Senators Carl Murat Cantave and Yuri Latortue, of Artibonite province. The legislators denied the accusations.

The Association of Journalists of Haiti also condemned some statements issued by the mayor of the city of Les Cayes (southwest Haiti), Jean Gabriel Fortuné, against journalist and correspondent Jean Nazaire Jeanty, about whom he said "he deserves to die" after writing an article that questioned his role.

The National Associaiton of Haitian Media (ANHM) questioned the decision of Port-au-Prince Public Prosecutor Clamé Ocnam Daméus to demand of the media "all the audiovisual images and recordings concerning acts of vandalism and violence during demonstrations" that occurred that month.

The ANHM said that "it noted with astonishment" the request of the official directed on October 23 at managers and editors that "without citing any legal reference" he demanded of the media that they again become helpers of his services in describing the acts committed on the public highway, giving him images and recordings, when "none of the members of the associaiton nor journalists that respect themselves have to serve as police or justice system informers."

On February 7 President Jovenel Moïse ended his first year of mandate with a certain stability affected by claims from teachers and workers of custom-free zones for better salaries and confronted by some sectors over the cost of food products.

Moïse is seeking to recover the confidence of the public and continue with the "Karavàn Chanjman" ("Caravan of Change") that is going around the country to encourage agricultural activity and the recovery of the infrastructure.

After 13 years of presence the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti left the country. Now there was installed a new Mission of Support of Justice in Haiti, made up of nearly a thousand United Nations police officers (UNPOL), in additon to the restoration of the new Armed Forces of Haiti, called upon to reinforce security currently in the hands of 14,000 officers of the National Police for nearly 12 million inhabitants.