doc. 9 rev. 1
September 1988
Original: English








          33.     During its visit to Haiti in February of 1987, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted a major improvement in freedom of expression.  However, beginning with the crisis in June of 1987, the situation began seriously to deteriorate.  The following violations of human rights directed towards journalists and radio stations were brought to the attention of the Commission: 


                   On June 30, 1987, Mr. Wilson Brissot was detained by soldiers while he was reporting for Radio Arc-en-Ciel, in the city of Leogane.  Later, he was forced into a car and driven to a rural area, where he was abandoned after having been shot.


                   On July 6, 1987, Messrs. Jean Hubert Laforet and Constantin Chery, reporters of Radio Cacique, were shot in the legs by military soldiers while reporting on the military violence in Cité Soleil.


                   On July 20, 1987, the offices of Radio Cacique were machine gunned by military soldiers.


                   On July 21, 1987, four reporters were arrested when they were taking photographs of a women's demonstration in Port-au-Prince and their cameras were confiscated.


                   On July 27, 1987, at another women's demonstration, soldiers detained several journalists and destroyed their cameras and film.  Among those detained was Ms. Carole De Villiers, a photographer for National Geographic, who was a victim of physical abuse during her detention.


                   Mr. Jean Max Blanc was detained on July 22, 1987, when he was reporting for Radio Metropole and his equipment was confiscated.  Mr. Blanc was detained for 48 hours until a judge, who refused to accuse him of attempted armed robbery against a soldier, ordered his release.


                   On the same day, the premises of Radio Soleil (a station of the Catholic Church) were ransacked by soldiers in an apparent attempt to intimidate the media.


                   On July 28th, the office of Radio Soleil in Jeremie was riddled with machinegun blasts.  Also on that day, two American journalists, Mr. Rick Kelly of the Picture Group, Inc. and Ms. Nancy McGirr of Reuters, were objects of shooting attempts while they covered street demonstrations.


                   On August 3, 1987, Mr. Jean Laurent Nelson, a reporter for Radio Haiti-Inter, was attacked by a band of Tontons Macoutes in Gonaives and followed to his house, which was in an area surrounded by the Macoutes.  Seriously injured he reached a hospital while pursued by his attackers.


                   On August 13, 1987, three reporters of the National Television (Télé Nationale) were arbitrarily detained.


                   On October 13, 1987, Mr. Yves Volel, a presidential candidate, was assassinated while holding a press conference in front of the police station (Recherches Criminelles) in Port-au-Prince.  Mr. Volel had invited journalists to accompany him to the police station, were he attempted to procure the release of Mr. Jean Raymond Louis.  Several men dressed as civilians fired repeatedly at Mr. Volel, who died instantly.  The police, instead of arresting the assassins, went after the journalists and confiscated the reporters' cameras.  Later, the police issued a communiqué declaring that Mr. Volel was found armed and that the police were looking for his accomplices.  The reporters present declared that Mr. Volel had died with a copy of the Constitution in his hands, and was unarmed.


                   On November 21, 1987, the studio and transformer of Radio Lumière (run by the Baptist Church) in Port-au-Prince were burned down.


                   On November 29, 1987, at approximately 1:30 a.m. the transmitter of Radio Soleil, (the radio station of the Catholic church), was destroyed by about 15 uniformed soldiers who tossed hand grenades and used flame throwers leaving it completely inoperative.


                   The premises of the radio stations Cacique, Haiti-Inter, and Caraibes of Port-au-Prince and Trans-Artibonite and Independence of Gonaives, were riddled with machine gun blasts, forcing their closure as well.


                   Hours later, journalists were the target of a wave of violence motivated by the election.  The Holiday Inn Hotel, located in the center of Port-au-Prince, and which served as an informal meeting place of foreign journalists, was hit by machine gun fire several times during the day by armed bands.  Observers and local and foreign journalists were repeatedly attacked and shot or received death threats when they headed toward the polling stations to cover the elections.


                   The most dramatic case was the killing of the Dominican cameramen, Mr. Carlos Grullón, who was shot point-blank by soldiers; he pleaded that they not shoot him, shouting that he was a journalist and showing them his press card.


                   An ABC television crew was pursued and shot by armed men "who took careful and deliberate aim" according to ABC correspondent Mr. Peter Collins.  Cameraman Javier Carillo, a Mexican, was shot in the thigh.  Soundman Alfredo Mejía, a Salvadoran, was hit in the elbow.  The Haitian driver, Franklin Ver, was shot in the back and badly wounded.  The gunman then removed wallets, watches and equipment from the crew.  ABC soundman Alfredo Mejía described the assault on his crew near the Argentine de Bellegarde School in Port-au-Prince where voters had been massacred earlier in the day:


                   "They stalked us.  They looked to be in their early thirties, muscular and tough.  They cursed us in a language we didn't understand.  They were loud and full of violent gestures.  I watched one of them aim and fire and saw the flash from his pistol.  He fired from point-blank range.  Cameraman Javier Carillo was hugging his camera to his body and I hugged my sound recorder to my middle.  I closed my eyes, hoping he would stop shooting.  My right arm jumped.  I was hit twice by 45-caliber bullets in the arm.  We were still filming and afterwards Carillo said he had filmed me being shot.  We had hardly had time to speak when we saw them returning.  We played dead.  They stepped down cursing all the time, and tore off my gold neck-chain, our watches, and tore out our wallets and then took away the camera and sound equipment."20


                                Mr. Bernard Etheart, a Haitian journalist for the Miami based newspaper Haiti-en-March and Mr. Geoffrey Smith, a British freelance journalist, were also injured while covering the election.


                   Voice of America correspondent Greg Flakus and three other journalists were chased in Port-au-Prince by armed men firing pistols.  The four hid for three hours while their pursuers conducted a house-to-house search for them.  "They were trying to kill us," Flakus said.  "There's no question about that."  The four were eventually rescued by a diplomat in a bullet-proof van.  United States freelance photographer Steven Wilson said gunmen forced him to kneel near a corpse and cocked their guns.  They let him go, but took his camera and shot out the windows of his car as he drove away.  Time magazine photographer J.B. Diederich was shot at by army personnel in full uniform.  Diederich was not hit, but bloodied his hands climbing over a broken-glass-topped wall to escape.  Gunmen also threatened reporters at roadblocks set up between the capital and the northern city of Gonaives, and in several cases destroyed their equipment.  Another French television crew had its gear smashed.


                   The gunmen and military also set their sights on Haiti's many independent radio stations, the key medium in a country where only one in four adults can read.  By daytime, only one independent station was still broadcasting in Port-au-Prince, the rest having been knocked off the air or terrorized into shutting themselves down.21





          34.     On the day of the February 17, 1988 elections, even though the elections went calmly and the military was extremely vigilant, three people were arrested, including Mr. Marc Antoine Delson, Director of L'arc-en-ciel radio.  Even with the harassment, the press and the radio stations continued reporting about the political situation in Haiti.  However, the television station did not show the same willingness to cooperate.  On February 5, Mr. Marc Bazin, an ex-presidential candidate wanted to deliver a message to the nation on Télé-Haiti, a private station, but his transmission was subject to prior censorship.22


          35.     On February 22, 1988, General Carl Michel Nicolas of the Army High Command delivered a communiqué to the press which warned the press against attacking Col. Jean-Claude Paul as a consequence of the foreign drug-trafficking charges against him.  This communiqué stated: 


                   The High Command of the Armed Forces of Haiti advises the local press against the arbitrary affirmations, of a certain foreign press, related to the alleged complicity of an official superior of the Armed Forces in Haiti in a drug-trafficking charge.


                   For the knowledge of the local press and the general public, the High Command informs that no such denouncement of any kind, or legal proceeding has been received in its office, in relation to the case of Jean-Claude Paul, especially pointed out by the foreign media; which would bring about, conforming to the regulations of the Armed Forces, the forming of a special investigative commission in order to clarify the case and to conclude with the disciplinary measures accordingly.


                   Going beyond the prescribed limits by the legislation concerning the topic, the foreign press dares to even mention a possible request of extradition.


                   The High Command of the Armed Forces of Haiti, asks the local press to avoid naively spreading a denigration campaign, without supporting it with proof.23 


                36.     This admonition by the Military Forces, who pursuant to the 1987 Constitution have no authority over the press, was followed by a second admonition by the Information Ministry.


                37.     On March 7, 198, Mr. Roger Savain, Information Minister, threatened to take criminal action against the press for violating the Constitution as follows: 


                   The communiqué dated 7 March 1988 and signed by Information Minister Roger L. Savain himself states that the ministry has recently noted a marked tendency on the part of the Haitian media to employ terms that are not too proper.  Inappropriate language is seen in news items, interviews, and statements by Haitian or foreign citizens.  There is also a tendency to disseminate erroneous, false, and unverified reports on the pretext of echoing foreign press organs.


                   This kind of behavior can confuse public opinion, cause unnecessary anxiety, and play on the nerves of a generally credulous population.


                   While freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, it is the Ministry's duty to remind the persons in charge of oral, written, and television press organs that the legislators took care to specify a number of limits which the right of expression cannot exceed without constituting an abuse.


                   Thus, stinging words, foul language, insulting and offensive or defamatory charges, sarcasm, or ill-intentioned jokes and certain serious public insults constitute intolerable cases of abuse of the freedom of speech.


                   The Minister adds in this connection:  Interested parties may refer to Articles 28 and 28-3 of the Constitution; Articles 313, 316, 320 and 321 of the penal code; and press legislation in force.  These provisions affect both the author of the offensive item and the press organ that carries it.


                   In view of the fact that this regime is trying to establish a rule of law, it invites citizens and press organs and agencies, both Haitian and foreign, to adhere more strictly to the provisions of the Constitution and the law, so that harmony and peace may prevail.24 


              38.     These communications were designed to silence the press as regards the indictment against Colonel jean-Claude Paul, Commander of Casernes Dessalines.


          39.     This government communiqué exerted a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in Haiti.  With the exception of Haitian-en-March (which is published in Miami) the press did not continue reporting on the case of colonel Paul.25   Radio Soleil, however, continued broadcasting on the Col. Paul affair and in the third week of March it received a "letter bomb" which did not detonate.


          40.     On March 10, 1988, the Haitian Association of Journalists (AJH) responded to the communiqué of the Information Minister as follows: 


                   Such a communiqué looks like psychological preparation of national public opinion for new repression against Haitian journalists and the media on the pretext that they are reporting the news incorrectly and using inappropriate language.  This new government, like all the preceding governments, seems to look upon the press as a favorite sphere in which to exercise its power and also an appropriate place to open an era of abuses.


                   The penal code does forbid defamation.  It also condemns threats in Articles 250-253.  In Articles 85 and 86, it punishes attacks on public freedoms.


The communiqué continued, in relevant part:


                    The Haitian Association of Journalists, by virtue of the Constitution of 1987, which rendered null and void the bad press law of 1986, acknowledges the need to have professional ethics respected and is opposed to any attempt to renew the old 1986 law, which trampled upon the press in Haiti.26 


          41.     As mentioned above (para. 31) there have also been instances when the Government has confiscated diaspora papers upon entry into the country.  For instance, in May, 1988, an edition of Haiti Progres and in June 1988 an issue of Haiti en Marche were confiscated.  Both contained articles alleging that Haitian military officers were involved in international drug trafficking activities.


          42.     In addition, one daily paper, Enquêtte, has ceased publication because its printer, a private company, has refused to print the paper due to threats from anonymous callers.


          43.     Problems continued to surface between President Manigat's Government and the press.  On June 14, 1988, it was reported that the Haitian Journalist's Association (AJH) reacted to statements made by the Prime Minister in which he held the press and certain political parties responsible for the government's inability to put certain initiatives into practice.  The AJH responded that such statements are merely a repetition of those which Haitian leaders have been making for more than 32 years.27






          44.     President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti on February 7, 1986.  As early as march 1986 organizations began forming in opposition to the CNG.  The KID (Committee of Democratic Unity) formed on March 21, 1986 "as a socio-political" interest group, considered the CNG's politics to be a "continuation of the same Macoutist-Duvalierist politics of the past."28    Persons who had been victimized by the Duvalierist governments were the founders of this organization.  They organized to denounce violations of human rights and the abuse of power by the authorities.29


a.       The importance of KONAKOM

          45.     From January 28 to February 1, 1987, some 310 organizations sent representatives to Port-au-Prince for the first National Congress of Democratic Movements.  This Congress of grassroots Movements consisted of peasant organizations, women's groups, human rights groups, labor unions, students groups, politicians, and the like.  It was created, however, in part, as a reaction to popular dissatisfaction with the self-proclaimed political "leaders" who offered themselves as candidates for the Haitian presidency.  The CNG had provided an electoral calendar and the National Congress sought to discuss the various points of view of the different groups and to achieve a consensus as to what sort of strategy it would adopt with respect to the elections.


          46.     The hundreds of organizations which attended this National Congress all sought, in their way, to carry out the same purpose:  to organize and educate the people in order that they might vindicate their rights.  Over and over again the members of the Commission were told by witnesses who came before them in January 1987, that these representatives of different groups - such as MISYON ALFA, the Catholic Church's literacy campaign for adults, the popular radio stations, the human rights groups, unions, and the like, - were engaged in the work of popular education and information.  Certain organizations, such as those connected with the "Small church" (Ti Legliz) were overtly religious and could be identified with the theology of liberation tendency of the Catholic Church.  Others, such as the peasant "groupements" were predominantly economic structures, which worked towards the formation of peasant cooperatives.30   The radio stations broadcasting in Creole emphasized civic education, the rights and duties of citizens and most importantly, the content and significance of the articles of the 1987 Constitution.  




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         20."Haiti:  Gunmen Sought to Kill Press Freedom along with Elections" by Susan Benesch, in Committee to protect Journalists:  CPJ Update, No. 32 Jan/Feb. 1988.

          21.     Id.

          22.     See, "Marc Bazin Comments on Current Situation" in FBIS, 8 February 1988.

          23.     Haiti-Observateur, February 26-March 4, 1988, p. 16.

          24.     See, "Ministry Warns on Abusing Freedom of Expression", FBIS, 9 March 1988.  Also, Le Nouvelliste, 23 February 1988.

          25.     See, Haiti-en-March, March 10, 1988, pp. 1, 5-9.  Also, Le Nouvelliste, 9 March 1988.

          26.     See, "Journalists Protest Warning", FBIS, March 10, 1988.  Also Le Nouvelliste, 10 March 1988.

          27.     See, "Journalists, Party React to Celestin Remarks."  FBIS, 14 June 1988.