Violence and insecurity in Haiti claim the life of a respected broadcaster

Paul Jean Marie, host of "A Voice in the Night" on Radio Lumière, was shot dead by criminals who broke into his home.

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

Miami (May 8, 2023) - A Haitian radio broadcaster was murdered last Friday, May 5th, on the outskirts of Haiti's capital, a victim of the climate of violence and insecurity that plagues the country.

Paul Jean Marie, presenter of the program "A Voice in the Night", broadcast by radio Lumière, was shot dead by criminals who entered his residence in Onaville, in the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets, east of Port-au-Prince, according to Sony Lamarre Joseph, general manager of the radio station.

The 67-year-old victim and a relative who accompanied him were trying to take cover from a shooting that was taking place at the time by armed gang members, added Lamarre, quoted by the news portal Rezo Nòdwès. Marie was "hit by several projectiles before he breathed his last breath," Lamarre said.

"Radio Lumière-Haïti announces the sad news of the murder of a great collaborator and friend. We will no longer hear the voice of this great man on the broadcast of 'Une voix dans la nuit," the station said on its Facebook page shortly after the news broke.

Rezo Nòdwès noted that Marie was an influential member of Haiti's Protestant community and a prominent evangelical animator through Radio Lumière, with more than twenty years of service to this sector.

Journalists, press workers and media executives are easy targets for attacks, kidnappings and murders by gangs that control much of Port-au-Prince.

Marie's murder this year follows that of Ricot Jean, a journalist with Radio-Télé Évolution Inter in Saint-Marc (north), whose body was found in an open field on April 25, and that of Dumesky Kersaint, editor of Radio Télé Inurep, who was gunned down on April 18 in the town of Carrefour, south of Port-au-Prince, as he was preparing to return to his usual activities.

In addition, so far in 2023, four journalists have been kidnapped and released after payment of their ransoms: Robert Dénis, general director of the private TV station Canal Bleu and twice vice-president of the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH); Lebrun Saint-Hubert, president and general director of the community radio 2000; Jean Thony Lorthé, host of the program "Rafrechi Memwa", broadcast by Radio Vision 2000; and Sandra Duvivier, renowned cultural journalist, cameraman and member of the staff of Telemax, TV channel 5.

Marie's murder comes two weeks before the mid-year meeting of the IAPA, where a report on Haiti considered that practicing journalism in this country "continues to be difficult and risky, exposing professionals to precarious and highly vulnerable conditions."

In the period under evaluation, from October 2022 to April of this year, four journalists, media executives or press workers were murdered, four others were kidnapped, and one was injured.

"These numbers and the expressions and denunciations of press unions and social and international organizations revalidated the country's condition as the most dangerous to practice journalism," the organization pointed out.

The difficulties to practice the profession in Haiti were also recorded in the report "Study on media development in Haiti," published by Unesco this year.

The document notes that attacks against the press are frequent and that the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. It also denounces that reporters covering political rallies are often verbally or physically attacked by demonstrators who associate them with the opposing side.

*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.