Mar 7, 2006
Thank you to everyone who wrote to new prosecutor Leny Fredd�Herck last week. No political prisoners have yet been released, but we did demonstrate that people outside of Haiti care about the prisoners, and we expect some results sooner rather than later.
Thank you as well to everyone who joined the Half-Hour for Haiti program recently. We�ve been growing fast (and the IJDH website topped 13,000 visitors in February).
Upcoming Event: International Tribunal On Haiti, March 11 in Miami. The Tribunal�s third session promises to be the best yet, with testimony from Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, Partners In Health and the Haiti Commission of Inquiry. Please come if you can, and also consider financially supporting this important project.
Recent Events: Partners in Health, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and NYU Law School�s Human Rights Clinic testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 3 on Violations of Economic and Social Human Rights in Haiti.
IJDH issued Preval’s Prospects: Naje Pou Soti (Sink or Swim), an analysis of the obstacles that President Preval must overcome in order to implement the progressive platform he was elected on.
This Week�s Action: Biased coverage of the February 7 elections highlighted the importance of fair reporting on Haiti. In addition to the February 22 Half-Hour alert: Urge Fairness From The NY Times, solid media criticism has been issued by Flashpoints Radio, the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and ZNet. We�ve received dozens of cc�s in the last month of letters from advocates to their local and national media.
One Half-Hour participant emailed to remind us that we need to make sure that the progressive press reports fairly too. He noted that The Nation�s founding prospectus promises: �to wage war upon the vices of violence, exaggeration, and misrepresentation by which so much of the political writing of the day is marred,� but that The Nation�s piece on the Haitian elections, the Fight for Haiti, �repeats many of the key talking points right-wing elites in Haiti and the U.S. are stressing about president-elect Preval, with almost no quotes from progressive sources, almost nothing about the right wing�s post-election manipulation, and nothing about the coup regime�s pre-election manipulation.�
He even enclosed an action alert:
Given the limited space the magazine gives to Haiti, it is important that supporters of peace, justice and the right of the Haitian people to self-determination should write the editors and tell them to improve their coverage.
A sample letter is included below, please feel free to adapt it however you feel best.
Letters to The Nation should be no longer than 300 words (the shorter the letter is, the more likely that it will be published), so choose 1-2 points that you feel most strongly about. Include a postal address and phone number. Letters can be mailed or submitted on the Nation website form.
33 Irving Place, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10003
I was disturbed to read in the pages of what is supposed to be a progressive, critical publication an article that reads like it was taken from the Bush State Department�s talking points on Haiti (�The Fight for Haiti,� March 13).
Like the U.S. government and corporate press, author Kathie Klarreich describes ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as �the most polarizing figure in Haiti�s recent political arena,� with no indication of how small a number of wealthy U.S. and Haitian elites dominate the relentless, hateful opposition to Aristide and his Lavalas Party. The article repeatedly warns against President Preval�s �armed supporters,� without mentioning that his armed opponents violently attacked Haiti�s last elected President.
The article admonishes Preval to �demonstrate that he is no longer Aristide’s twin,� and cautions against letting Aristide back into the country. But it fails to note that on election day and afterwards, voters told anyone who would listen that they were in fact voting to bring Aristide back and for a continuation of his policies.
The article passively notes that �over the past two years 1,500 have died, and Haitians have been gripped by a kidnapping craze that at its height claimed more than ten victims a day,� without mentioning that this violence was the direct result of a coup d�etat supported by the U.S. and Preval�s political opponents, which replaced the elected Aristide government with a brutal unconstitutional regime.
The article does mention that Preval�s official vote count slipped under 50%, but it ignores one of the main causes: the interim government�s systematic suppression of the progressive vote. Most top progressive leaders are in exile or prison, dozens if not hundreds of grassroots activists are illegally imprisoned. The police routinely opened fire at peaceful anti-government demonstrations. Where the democratic governments provided over 10,000 centers to register and to vote in the last elections, the interim government furnished less than 900, disproportionately located in wealthy areas.
President-elect Preval will certainly need to fight to better the miserable living conditions of most of his voters. But all his efforts will be in vain if Haitian elites and the international community, especially the U.S. government want to stop him. The Nation should inform its readers about the obstacles in Mr. Preval�s path, but it should do so fairly, giving blame where blame is due.
For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.