Journalist Kidnapped in Haiti, Sixth So Far This Year


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

Miami (July 22, 2023) - A journalist has been kidnapped in the Haitian capital, the sixth kidnapping affecting the Haitian press this year.

Blondine Tanis, co-host of the "Tribune Matinale" program broadcast on Radio Rénovation FM (107.1FM), fell into the hands of her captors on Friday, July 21, as she was entering her home in the Delmas neighborhood, east of Port-au-Prince, local media confirmed.

A graduate in law and journalism, the respected journalist was also a member of the Radio Télé Zénith team and is the sixth Haitian press worker kidnapped in 2023.

On June 13, Marie Lucie Bonhomme, a journalist with Radio Vision 2000 and owner of the radio and television station Télé Pluriel, was forcibly taken from her residence in the commune of Tabarre, northeast of Port-au-Prince, brought to the base of the "Kraze Baryè" gang and released hours later.

A week later, on June 20, Bonhomme's husband, the former president of the Provisional Electoral Council, Pierre Louis Opont, was kidnapped by the same gang that has been holding him to this day.

Since then, organizations such as the Association of Haitian Journalists and SOS Journalistes have joined the campaign to release Opont, whom several media outlets identify as co-owner of Télé Pluriel.

In addition to Tanis and Bonhomme, four other journalists were kidnapped and released after their ransoms were paid this year: Robert Dénis, general director of TV Canal Bleu and recently elected president of the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH); Lebrun Saint-Hubert, president and general director of community radio 2000; Jean Thony Lorthé, host of the program "Rafrechi Memwa" on Radio Vision 2000; and Sandra Duvivier, cultural journalist, cameraman and staff member of Telemax, TV channel 5.

Journalists, press workers, and media executives are easy targets for attacks, kidnappings, and murders by gangs that control a large part of the capital of Haiti; a country plunged into a constant climate of insecurity and a political crisis resulting from the absence of elected authorities.

So far this year, three journalists have been murdered in the country, the latest of them Paul Jean Marie, presenter at radio Lumière, who on May 5 was shot dead by criminals who entered his residence in Onaville, in the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets, east of the capital.

Marie's murder follows those of Ricot Jean, a journalist with Radio-Télé Évolution Inter in the city of 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.

The most recent incident involved the journalist of the news portal Vant Bèf Info, Pierre Daniel Lamartinière, who last Thursday 20 was wounded by police officers during an anti-government demonstration.

A month ago, the National Board of the Haitian Observatory for the Right and Freedom of the Press (OHDLP) "strongly" condemned the physical aggression and attempted murder perpetrated against the director of Legal Affairs of the entity, Amentha Léonard, by a gang operating in the department of Nippes, 110 kilometers southwest of the Haitian capital.

Meanwhile, the general director of the online portal Clin D'œil Info, Blondson Bachtmy Délien, filed a complaint with the Port-au-Prince prosecutor's office for persistent threats against him following the publication of information involving a former mayor.

At its mid-year meeting two months ago, the IAPA presented a report stating that journalism in Haiti "continues to be difficult, risky and exposes journalists to precarious and highly vulnerable conditions."

In addition to the IAPA report, the difficulties in practicing the profession in Haiti were recorded in the "Study on the Development of the Media in Haiti," published by Unesco this year. The document states 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 Miami-based journalist. He is an expert on Haiti. Former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Listín Diario newspaper in the Dominican Republic. A former Chinese state agency Xinhua correspondent in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.