Journalists begin strike in solidarity with colleague kidnapped in Haiti


*By Javier Valdivia, special to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA)

Miami (February 16, 2023) - Journalists at a Haitian radio station will begin a work stoppage this Friday to demand the release of a colleague from the same station who was kidnapped two weeks ago.

In a statement issued in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, Radio Vision 2000 press workers said they were "deeply concerned" about the development of the kidnapping of journalist Jean Thony Lorthé, whose captors "are increasingly intransigent about the ransom demanded."

Jean Thony Lorthé, the presenter of the radio program "Rafrechi Memwa," broadcast in Creole, was kidnapped last Friday, February 3, while on his way to a funeral with his brother and a friend in Pétion Ville, a middle-class neighborhood in the northeast of the Haitian capital. The armed gang Ti Makak operates in the area and has been identified as the perpetrator of the kidnapping.

"For all the services rendered to society, we humbly consider that we, the colleagues of Lorthé and Radio Vision 2000, have the moral obligation to do everything possible to ensure that he regains his freedom, says the communiqué signed by eleven journalists of the radio station.

This week, according to local media, dozens of journalists marched in Port-au-Prince to demand the release of their colleague, for whom his kidnappers are demanding 200,000 dollars for his ransom.

The march went through several streets of the Haitian capital to denounce, at the headquarters of the Culture and Communication and Justice and Public Security ministries, the "complicit silence" of the authorities. The journalists ended the demonstration at the premises of Radio Vision 2000.

In the march, last Tuesday, the secretary general of the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), Jacques Desrosiers, asked the government to adopt measures to facilitate the release of his colleague and restore peace so reporters can carry out their work.

Haiti is going through a severe political crisis and is experiencing a climate of constant insecurity in which journalists are easy targets for attacks, kidnappings, and murders. Nine journalists were killed last year in the country, the worst after Mexico, according to the IAPA.

In addition, two other journalists, Edner Décime of the AlterPresse news agency and Oscar Joseph, who worked for years as coordinator of audiovisual programs for the Ministry of Education, were kidnapped and later released after payment of their ransoms.

A resolution on Haiti approved by the IAPA during its 78th General Assembly in October 2022 in Madrid, Spain, stressed that the climate of violence and the political, economic, and security crisis in which that country is immersed keep journalists in a situation of defenselessness and high risk.

The IAPA called on the Haitian government to guarantee the preservation of freedom of expression and the free and safe practice of journalism and urged the press organizations of the Americas to express their solidarity and support for journalists and media outlets that continue to carry out their mission despite the high-risk circumstances.

*Javier Valdivia is a journalist based in Miami and an expert on Haiti. He was Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Listín Diario newspaper in the Dominican Republic and a former correspondent for the Chinese agency Xinhua in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.