Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Half-Hour for Haiti: Speak Up For Labor Leaders Harassed By Police

October 4, 2005

Half-Hour for Haiti: Protect Journalists From Attack

Thank you to everyone in 44 cities who joined the worldwide solidarity mobilization on September 30. Haitian activists report that the mobilization was a��serum� (shot in the arm) for their efforts. Knowing that people care about them outside Haiti gives them both hope and courage. The Haiti organizers from�Fondasyon 30 Septanm did not, however, feel safe organizing an open demonstration. On September 29, Haitian police and UN Peacekeepers conducted a series of illegal warrantless arrests in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, where the planned demonstration was to begin. The�Fondasyon decided that the police were intent on stopping the demonstration through every means necessary, which likely including killing. They felt it was too dangerous to put people out in the streets under those circumstances. Instead the�Fondasyonheld a Day of Reflexion on human rights and democracy, which fortunately passed without incident.

This week�s action alert concerns attacks against journalists. According to�several media reports, private security guards for Interim President Boniface Alexandre attacked two journalists yesterday, October 3, at the ceremonies for the opening of the Haitian court system�s annual session. Although neither journalist reported serious injuries, the assaults are the latest in a long series of attacks against journalists under the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH). The series includes the September 9�arrest of journalists Jean Ristil and Kevin Pina,�harassment of Radio Solidarite/AHP , a directive from the Council of Ministerslimiting press freedom and the policeexecution of journalist Abdias Jean (see�www.ijdh.org/attacks.htm for more information on press attacks ).

Although attacks against the press imperil freedoms in any situation, they are particularly dangerous now in Haiti, as scheduled elections approach. If journalists are arrested for monitoring a search in a church compound (like Ristil and Pina) or beaten for insisting on covering a Presidential speech, it is clear that they will be unable to freely cover highly controversial elections.

Action: Please write to the�Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Eduardo Bertoni, and urge him to take prompt action on Haiti. The Special Rapporteur has a mandate to pursue complaints of violations of Freedom of Expression, through the Inter-American Human Rights system, intervention with responsible governments, and by issuing press releases and reports.

The Special Rapporteur has not issued a single press release on these recent attacks on press freedom, or on any issue related to Haiti in the nineteen months since the IGH took power on February 29, 2004. By contrast, the Special Rapporteur issued six press releases in the last nineteen months of Haiti�s Constitutional governments. Attacks under the IGH were reported briefly in the Rapporteur�sAnnual Report for 2004. Over that same time period, several organizations with similar mandates, including the�Committee to Protect Journalists,�UNESCO, and the�Society of Professional Journalists have issued reports and press releases condemning the systematic attacks on press freedoms under the Interim Government.

A sample letter is below. Urge Mr. Bertoni to speak out forcefully against the persecution of journalists in Haiti, and to aggressively pursue complaints of violations of freedom of expression through every means at his disposal. Letters may be emailed to�EBertoni@oas.org, faxed to (202) 458-6215, or mailed.

Mr. Eduardo Bertoni

Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

Inter American Commission on Human Rights

1889 F Street, N.W.

Washington , DC . 20006

Dear Mr. Bertoni:

I am writing to urge you to speak out forcefully against the persecution of journalists in Haiti. On Monday, October 3 security guards for Interim President Boniface Alexandre attacked two journalists, Reuters correspondent Guy Delva and Radio Metropole reporter Jean Wilkens Merone, at the ceremonies for the opening of the Haitian court system�s annual session. Although none of the journalists reported serious injuries, the assaults are the latest in a long series of attacks against journalists under the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH). This series includes in this year alone the September 9 arrests of journalists Jean Ristil and Kevin Pina, harassment of Radio Solidarite and the Haitian Press Association in July and August, a directive from the Council of Ministers calling for limitations on press freedom in July, and the January police execution of journalist Abdias Jean.

Although attacks against the press imperil freedoms in any situation, they are particularly dangerous now in Haiti, as elections scheduled for this fall approach. If journalists are arrested for monitoring a search in a church compound (like Ristil and Pina) or beaten for insisting on covering a Presidential speech, it is clear that they will be unable to freely cover highly controversial elections.

I note that your office has yet to issue a press release condemning any attack under Haiti�s unelected Interim Government, while it issued six releases in the last nineteen months of Haiti�s elected, constitutional governments. I believe that the Special Rapporteur has an important role in protecting Haiti�s embattled journalists, and I urge you to aggressively pursue complaints of violations of freedom of expression through every means at your disposal.

Sincerely,

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For more information about the Half-Hour For Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti or human rights in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org.

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Telephone: (617) 652-0876
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