*By Javier Valdivia. Special for the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA)
Miami (August 9, 2023) — A journalist was attacked while covering a protest in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The case of Arnold Junior joins other press workers registered in the country in recent months who protesters have attacked.
Radio Galaxie said that its reporter Arnold Junior Pierre was "brutally beaten on July 31 by hooded individuals" while residents of the city's southwest marched to protest against one of the gangs operating in that sector.
"Our collaborator's attackers seized his mobile phone shortly before destroying it. Radio Galaxie strongly condemns the physical assault against its journalist in exercising his profession," the station said.
Reporters covering political marches or rallies are often verbally or physically attacked by protesters who associate them with the opposing camp, according to a study on media development in Haiti published by UNESCO this year.
The report added that attacks against the press occur frequently, and their perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
On July 20, reporters Daniel Lamartinière, from the Vant Bèf info portal, and Jameson Jean Baptiste, from JB Média, were beaten by a police officer while covering a demonstration in the Haitian capital against the government of current Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Lamartinière had already suffered injuries to one eye in February 2022 after police officers fired tear gas, lethal bullets, and rubber bullets when the march he was about to cover "had not even started," according to local media reports. In January 2021, the reporter was injured in the face during another march in which the police intervened.
This year, a member of the National Board of the Haitian Observatory for Law and Press Freedom, Amentha Léonard, was also attacked by gang members in the department of Nippes (southwest). Blondson Bachtmy Délien, general director of the portal Clin D'œil Info, filed a complaint for "persistent threats" against him after publishing information about a former mayor.
At its mid-year meeting last April, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) presented a report that considered practicing journalism in Haiti "continues to be difficult and risky, exposing professionals to precarious and highly vulnerable conditions."
Paul Jean Marie, a journalist for Radio Lumière, was killed by criminals who, on May 5, entered his house in the Croix-des-Bouquets municipality, east of the capital; Ricot Jean, a reporter for Radio-Télé Évolution Inter from Saint-Marc (north), was murdered and his body found in a wasteland on April 25, and Dumesky Kersaint, from Radio Télé Inurep, was shot to death on the 18th of that month in Carrefour, southwest of Port-au-Prince.
In addition, Blondine Tanis, co-host of the "Tribune Matinale" program on Radio Rénovation FM (107.1FM), was kidnapped on July 21 when she was entering her home in the Delmas neighborhood east of the capital and was released the night of Sunday, the 30th "in a deplorable state of health" according to his relatives.
On June 13, Marie Lucie Bonhomme, a well-known presenter of Radio Vision 2000 and owner of the Télé Pluriel radio and television station, was also forcibly taken from her residence in Tabarre, northeast of Port-au-Prince, brought to the base of a gang and released hours later.
A week later, Pierre Louis Opont, Bonhomme's husband and former president of Haiti's electoral tribunal — whom several media outlets identify as co-owner of Télé Pluriel — was kidnapped by the same gang that held the presenter and is holding him until the day of his death, despite the payment of his ransom.
Also kidnapped this year were Robert Dénis, general director of TV Canal Bleu and current president of the National Association of Haitian Media; Lebrun Saint-Hubert, General Director of Community Radio 2000; Jean Thony Lorthé, presenter of the "Rafrechi Memwa" program on Radio Vision 2000, and Sandra Duvivier, journalist for Telemax, TV channel 5.
A resolution on Haiti, approved by the IAPA last year during its 78th General Assembly held in Madrid, Spain, stressed that the climate of violence and the political, economic, and security crisis this country is immersed in keep journalists in a defenseless and high-risk situation.
The IAPA called on the Haitian government to guarantee the preservation of freedom of expression and the free and safe exercise of journalism and urged the press organizations of the Americas to express their solidarity and support for the journalists and media outlets that continue to fulfill its informative mission despite the current circumstances.
In 2022, nine reporters murdered: Francklin Tamar from Radio Solidarité; Fritz Dorilas from Megastar radio; Romelo Vilsaint and Wilguens Louissaint, both digital media contributors; Tess Garry of Lebon FM radio; Frantzsen Charles of FS NEWS; Tayson Lartigue, by Tijèn Jounalis; Maxihen Lazarre, from Rois des infos, and Amady John Wesley, from radio Écoute FM.
Two other journalists, Edner Décime, from the AlterPresse agency, and Oscar Joseph, a longtime coordinator of audiovisual programs for the Ministry of Education, were kidnapped last year and later released after paying their ransoms.
*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.