Journalist Missing and Broadcaster Kidnapped for Twelve Days in Haiti


By Javier Valdivia

Miami (December 18, 2023) — A journalist is missing. A broadcaster was kidnapped for 12 days and later released after a ransom payment in Haiti, where reporters, communicators, and press workers face serious risks due to the high level of insecurity affecting the country.

Journalist Barnatte Daniel was last seen on Friday, the 15th of this month, after hosting his program on Radio Regard FM in the Haitian capital. "Since that moment, no one has been able to contact him," noted the news portal AmeriqueInfo7, citing the presenter's family.

Daniel, a former member of Radio Zénith FM, had previously received phone threats in October 2021 when he reported the kidnapping of an evangelical church pastor during his program "El sonido de la calle" on Radio Mega FM.

The journalist's disappearance was reported the day after several local media outlets disclosed the kidnapping of Radio Scoop FM presenter Pierre-Fils Saintamour, which occurred in a populous commune in the northeast of Port-au-Prince.

Saintamour was kidnapped on November 27 in the company of his two children and pregnant wife, and he was released on December 8 after the payment of a large sum of money, according to statements from the victim himself.

The broadcaster, cited by the news outlet Rezo Nòdwès, stated that his wife and children were released earlier at his insistent request to the kidnappers. Still, his sister-in-law, Marie Gaetjens Agis, was also taken hostage just as she was about to pay the ransom.

Kidnappings are common in Haiti due to the proliferation of armed gangs and the weakness of the Haitian police in addressing this phenomenon.

The Office of Human Rights of the United Nations reported last month that between January and October of this year, 2,951 people were kidnapped in this country "in acts of violence related to gangs."

Regarding the press, three other kidnappings affected the guild throughout 2023: Marie Lucie Bonhomme Opont, a journalist at Radio Vision 2000, was kidnapped for a few hours on June 14; Pierre Louis Opont, Bonhomme's husband and co-owner of Télé Pluriel, was abducted on June 20 and released on August 25, and Blondine Tanis, co-host at Radio Rénovation FM 107.1, was kidnapped on July 21 and released nine days later.

In its latest semiannual report, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) observed that Haitian journalists continue to suffer from the scourge of violence imposed by gangs that control much of the country through attacks, kidnappings, and murders.

IAPA added that, in addition to the constant insecurity in which press workers carry out their work, there is a lack of government protection and impunity for the attackers.

In the conclusion of its 79th General Assembly held between November 9 and 12 in Mexico City, the IAPA condemned the murder of Haitian journalist Paul Jean Marie that occurred in May of this year and urged the Haitian government to take necessary actions to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished.

The host of the program "Una voz en la noche," broadcast on Radio Lumière, was fatally shot on May 5 by criminals who entered his residence in Onaville, in the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets, east of Port-au-Prince.

A family member accompanied the 67-year-old victim and was trying to take cover from a shootout that was happening at that moment between armed gang members. Marie's death added to those of Ricot Jean from Radio-Télé Évolution Inter in Saint-Marc (north), whose body was found in an open field on April 25, and Dumesky Kersaint from Radio Télé Inurep, who was shot on April 18 in the municipality of Carrefour, south of the Haitian capital.

IAPA also called on Haitian authorities to develop mechanisms to assist press workers who have been forced to leave their homes due to the high levels of violence and insecurity in the country.

The organization recalled the forced displacement of a dozen journalists residing in Carrefour-Feuilles, one of the most popular neighborhoods in the Haitian capital, whose houses were burned down or decided to leave to preserve their lives and those of their families from the terrible impact of armed gangs that control that and other sectors of the city.

Among the victims were Réginald Esaie Orélus and Richardson Jourdan from Television Nationale d'Haiti; Jacques Desrosiers, Secretary-General of the Haitian Journalists Association; Celou Flécher and Dessources Dieumaitre, general directors of Le Facteur and Fact Checking News, both digital media; and Samuel Dallemand and Rubens Artist, reporters for Télé Ginen. More victims were Jean Yves St-Louis from Radio Lumière; Kettia Marcellus from the Solidaridad de Mujeres Haitianas Periodistas organization; Jacques Stevenson Saint-Louis from Radio Educativa, Ministry of Education; Judex Vélima from Télé Espace, and Arnold Junior Pierre from Radio Galaxie.

Assaults against journalists were also common during the year. On July 20, reporters Daniel Lamartinière from Vant Bèf info and Jameson Jean Baptiste from JB Média were beaten by a police officer while covering a demonstration against the government in the capital, and on July 23 in Liancourt (north), the headquarters of Radio Antarctique 96.1 FM were set on fire during a gang attack.

Meanwhile, on July 31, reporter Arnold Junior Pierre was beaten while covering a protest southwest of Port-au-Prince. On August 11, Brown Larose, host of the "Matin Débat" program on Radio Télé Éclair, was shot in front of his home but survived the attack.

On October 3, the United Nations approved the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti to assist the Haitian police in ensuring the safety of the population by eradicating gangs.

Two weeks later, the UN Security Council renewed a resolution passed in October 2022, imposing a sanctions regime that "demands an immediate cessation of violence, criminal activities, and human rights abuses undermining the peace, stability, and security of the country and the region."

The author is the regional vice president for Haiti of the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) Committee on Press Freedom and Information.