*By Javier Valdivia, special to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA)
Miami (February 20, 2023) - A journalist kidnapped earlier this month in Haiti was released last Friday, February 17, by his captors demanding US$ 200,000 for his release.
Journalist Valéry Numa confirmed on his Twitter account that his colleague Jean Thony Lorthé was released after the ransom demanded that the presenter of the radio program "Rafrechi Memwa," broadcast in Creole on Radio Vision 2000, was paid.
"I just spoke to him," Numa said Friday night.
Lorthé was kidnapped on February 3 while going to a funeral with his brother and a female relative in Pétion Ville, a middle-class neighborhood northeast of the Haitian capital. The armed gang known as Ti Makak has been identified as the perpetrator of the kidnapping.
Last Friday, journalists from the same radio station where Lorthé works began a work stoppage to demand the release of their colleague, "deeply concerned" by the development of the kidnapping of their colleague and by the stubbornness of his kidnappers regarding the ransom demanded.
In addition, dozens of journalists marched in Port-au-Prince to demand his release. The march went through several streets of the Haitian capital. At the Ministries of Culture and Communication and of Justice and Public Security, the press denounced the "complicit silence" of the authorities.
In the demonstration, which culminated at Radio Vision 2000, the secretary general of the Haitian Journalists Association, Jacques Desrosiers, asked the government to adopt measures to facilitate the release of his colleague and re-establish peace so reporters could do 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 this country, the worst for the practice of journalism in the continent after Mexico, according to IAPA.
In addition, two other journalists, Edner Décime of the AlterPresse 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 Inter American Press Association during its 78th General Assembly held 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.