*By Javier Valdivia, Special to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA)
Miami (March 27, 2023) - A radio executive and host kidnapped in the middle of this month in Haiti was released last Saturday, March 25, 2023, after eight days in captivity.
Lebrun Saint-Hubert, president and general manager of the community radio station "2000", was released after the payment of a ransom according to local media. The kidnappers demanded US$1.5 million for his release, but neither the authorities nor Saint-Hubert's family or colleagues have confirmed that the money was paid.
The radio broadcaster was kidnapped last Friday 17 inside the same radio station located in the Delmas neighborhood, northeast of Port-au-Prince, by men disguised as agents of the Central Directorate of the Haitian Judicial Police, according to witnesses quoted by the news portal Rezo Nòdwès.
Saint-Hubert, who also serves as a police inspector, is co-host of the program "Konfizyon" which is broadcast on Saturday nights on "2000", 96.1. He is the second Haitian broadcaster to fall victim to criminal gangs so far this year.
Another broadcaster, Jean Thony Lorthé, was kidnapped on February 3 and released fourteen days later after his captors demanded US$200,000 in ransom.
On the day of the kidnapping, Lorthé was on his way to a funeral with his brother and a friend in Pétion Ville, a middle-class neighborhood located northeast of the capital. The area is home to the gang known as Ti Makak, which has been fingered as the perpetrator of the crime.
Colleagues of Lorthé, presenter of the radio program "Rafrechi Memwa", broadcast by Radio Vision 2000, held a work stoppage to demand the release of their colleague, "deeply disturbed" by the intransigence of his kidnappers regarding the ransom demanded.
In addition, dozens of reporters and photographers marched in the Haitian capital to demand Lorthé's release and to denounce the "complicit silence" of the authorities in the face of the insecurity in the country.
Nine journalists were killed last year in Haiti, the worst year for the practice of journalism in the continent only after Mexico, according to IAPA.
Two other journalists, Edner Décime, of the AlterPresse news agency, and Oscar Joseph, long-time coordinator of audiovisual programs for the Ministry of Education, were also kidnapped and later released in 2022 after payment of their ransoms.
A resolution on Haiti approved by the IAPA during its 78th General Assembly held in October 2022 in Spain, stressed that the climate of violence and the political, economic and security crisis in which this 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 Miami-based journalist. He is an expert on Haiti. He was Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Listín Diario newspaper in the Dominican Republic. Former correspondent of the Chinese state agency Xinhua in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.