Seven Individuals Accused of the Murder of a Haitian Journalist in 2019

Néhémie Joseph, a reporter for the local station Radio Panic FM and correspondent for Radio Méga in the capital, was shot multiple times.

By Javier Valdivia (*)

Miami (May 8, 2024) — A former senator and a former mayor, along with five others, have been accused of murdering journalist Néhémie Joseph, which occurred five years ago in a town in central Haiti.

Judge Edwige Dorsainvil ordered pretrial detention for former legislator Rony Célestin, former mayor Lochard Laguerre, and Juste Chandou Clerjeune, Elionel Casséus, Angelina Fabiola Cameau, Douyon Rosevald, and Hugens Charles, all involved in the crime that took place on October 10, 2019, in the town of Mirebalais, 60 kilometers northeast of Port-au-Prince.

Joseph, a reporter for the local station Radio Panic FM and correspondent for Radio Méga in the capital, was shot multiple times. His body was discovered in the trunk of his own vehicle abandoned at the entrance of Mirebalais, the city where he worked.

The journalist, who hosted the show "Tambour Vérite" (Drum of Truth, in English), frequently reported on protests against then-President Jovenel Moïse, criticizing the political crisis and government actions, becoming a target of publicly denounced threats against his life.

Juste Chandou Clerjeune, considered the material author of the crime, was arrested in January 2020 in the Dominican Republic, and placed in the custody of Haitian authorities. According to prosecutor Elione Saint-Fleur, cited by local media, the detainee confessed to the murder.

The judge's indictment, issued in March but made public last week, was celebrated in Port-au-Prince by professional organizations and human rights defenders. Joseph's murder followed those of Radio sans fin (Rsf) co-owner Pétion Rospide on June 10, 2019, and photojournalist Vladjimir Legagneur on March 14, 2018.

Currently, Haiti "is facing an acute political crisis and an unprecedented escalation of violence, challenging conditions for the practice of journalism," emphasized the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in a resolution issued at its midyear meeting in April. The serious security crisis led to the death of reporter Nerval Pierre Viliat on March 21, and to kidnappings and attacks against other journalists. At the end of April, several media premises were vandalized, and equipment stolen from the newspaper Le Nouvelliste in Port-au-Prince.

In 2023, three journalists were killed, and another survived a shooting outside his residence. Additionally, there were five kidnappings of communicators, at least three were beaten by the police during protest coverage, and the headquarters of radio Antarctique 96.1 FM was set on fire by gang members in the north of the country.

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