Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Society of Professional Journalists Statement on Haiti

Wed Aug 3 11:07:27 2005 Pacific Time

      Society of Professional Journalists Statement on Haiti

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 3 (AScribe Newswire) — The Society of
Professional Journalists today released the following statement.

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The situation in Haiti remains of growing concern not just for
journalists but also for all people who cherish freedom of speech and
press.

Ever since the demise of the dictatorships in the late 1980s,
Haiti has had a number of governments, many of which tried to install
democratic institutions and which also sought to protect independent
media. In too many instances these efforts failed and chaos in the
society and political system rose up.

Now, Haiti is once again being ripped apart by roving gangs.
Some are loyal to the ousted former president. Some are loyal to other
political organizations but many more are loyal to the drug lords,
people traffickers, and money launderers.

Journalists are being intimidated by these gangs and by
government edict. As a result rumors run wild and accurate information
is difficult to get. As journalists we have always believed allowing
free media to operate means less misinformation and greater
understanding. What is happening now in Haiti creates and exacerbates
an atmosphere of distortion that increases violence and human rights
violations.

It is for this reason the Society of Professional Journalists
finds most disturbing that apparently the existing government of Haiti
has been persecuting journalists and has allowed gangs to beat and kill
journalists. The government also has sought to control reporting of
natural disasters. In addition the government has apparently redefined
what is fair reporting to exclude any opposition voices.

We now draw attention to the current case involving Georges
Venel Remarias, founder and director of Haitian Press Agency (AHP) and
Radio Solidarite.

Now we have learned that Mr. Remarais was recently served with a
summons to appear before a Haitian court. Mr. Remarais was outside of
Haiti when the summons was served but a member of his staff reported
the document accused him of “criminal associations” and “fraud.”

Little is known of exactly who issued the summons or the exact
nature of the allegations. We at SPJ do not pretend to be able to judge
the legality of such a summons or of these charges. We are concerned,
however, that this action seems to be a part of an overall plan by the
government to silence AHP and Radio Solidarite.

Apparently the government is upset that AHP and Radio Solidarite
have been unflinching in their efforts to report the violations of
human rights by Haitian forces. While other independent media outlets
exist, AHP and Radio Solidarite are, by best estimate, the only ones
left who vocally oppose the current government.

The ruling “Council of the Wise” had ordered radio stations that
permit “bandits” to speak over the airwaves would be shut down. The
definition of “bandits” is vague and is seen by some journalists as
anyone opposing the government. Apparently it is the continued
reporting by Radio Solidarite from shantytowns and poor neighborhoods
about human rights violations that has so upset the Haitian government.

We call on the Haitian government to cease its attempts to
stifle the media.

We further call on it to ensure the safety of Mr. Remarais
during his hearings and to make those hearings open to the public and
the international media.

We ask that the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces and the U.S.
government closely monitor this situation and make public their
observations.

And lastly, we call on all other international journalism groups
to speak out on behalf of reporters and editors being persecuted in
Haiti.

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CONTACT: Irwin Gratz, President, Society of Professional
Journalists, 207-329-6203, igratz@spj.org

Dan Kubiske, International Journalism Committee, 809-886-9750,
dekubiske@gmail.com

ABOUT SPJ: The Society of Professional Journalists works to
improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the
free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical
behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in
Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a
well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation
of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of
speech and press.

 

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