Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Half-Hour for Haiti: Justice for Slain Journalists

May 4, 2007

Update: No good news on political prisoners this week like the last two, but we are still working. Rep. Maxine Waters, joined by Representatives Spencer Bachus, Luis Gutierrez and Barbara Lee issued a letter to their colleagues in Congress yesterday urging them to co-sponsor the Haiti Debt Relief Act. The co-sponsor total for the Act remains at 8, so there is work to do. We will complement the Representatives� letters with a call-in-to-Congress day on Haiti�s Flag Day, May 18.

Coming Attractions: The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti is holding a New York City Fundraiser on May 24 at the Judson Memorial Church in Washington Square, hosted by Michael Ratner, Tom Driver, Bryan Stevenson, and Judy Prosper, and featuring Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Brian Concannon.

This Week�s Action: We did not get this alert out until Friday because we could not decide what to do about it. We still can�t, so we will let you decide:

On Thursday, May 3, Amnesty International issued an action alert in honor of World Press Freedom Day: Freedom of Expression Can Not Prevail Without Justice for Murdered Journalists, asking people to urge Haitian officials to pursue the cases of eight journalists killed in Haiti since 2000: Jean Dominique, G�rard Denoze, Brignol Lindor, Ricardo Ortega, Abdias Jean, Robenson Laraque, Jacques Roche and Jean-R�my Badiau.

We agree with the importance of pursuing these cases- the BAI started working on the Dominique case seven years ago, and filed complaints in the Abdias Jean case in Haitian and international courts. We also respect the work that Amnesty International does (I have been a member for 18 years), and appreciate that the AI alert makes an effort to present a balanced picture of the cases, several of which are controversial and have become highly politicized. So we wrote to Haitian authorities and urged them to pursue the cases of the journalists� killings.

But we also felt that Amnesty�s effort at balance fell short, because the alert repeated several common distortions of the facts. Over the seven years that we have been working on these cases, it has been a continual source of dismay that their facts have been contorted to fit political agendas, agendas that have often been inconsistent with the full, prompt and impartial pursuit of justice that Amnesty advocates.

So we wrote the email below to Amnesty International, seeking two corrections, hoping to be able to send a corrected version as a Half-Hour for Haiti alert. We did not hear back (but it has only been 26 hours).

We were uncomfortable sending the Amnesty alert out uncorrected, but we were also uncomfortable not sending it out and foregoing an opportunity to advocate for justice for Haiti�s slain journalists. So we are asking you to do what you think best: urge the Haitian authorities to pursue the full, prompt and impartial investigation and/or prosecution of the journalists� cases; or urge Amnesty International to present an accurate and balanced account of the journalists� cases. Even better, as we did, do both.

This week�s alert raises a lot of complicated and interesting issues that cannot be addressed in the space of an alert. We expect that many will not agree with us, or will otherwise have things to add to this discussion. If so, give all of us the benefit of your wisdom by posting your comments under this alert on the Haiti Justiceblog.

Click here for the Amnesty International alert.

The contact information for AI�s Caribbean team is:

Caribbean Team
Amnesty International
1 Easton St.
London, WC1X8DJ
United Kingdom

Phone: 44-71-413-5500
Fax: 44-71-956-1157
Email: caribbean@amnesty.org

Excerpts from our email:

Dear [Caribbean Team]:

I think you made a good effort to present a balanced treatment, but there are some serious problems in the [Haiti Freedom of Expression] alert:

<<News director of Radio Echo 2000, Brignol Lindor was stoned and hacked to death by a mob in the district of L�Acul, just outside the town of Petit-Go�ve on 3 December 2001. The mob allegedly included members of an organization which supported Fanmi Lavalas, the political party of then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Several days before, the Fanmi Lavalas assistant mayor of Petit- Go�ve had publicly called for �’zero tolerance� against Brignol Lindor, whom he accused of supporting a rival party…>>

The “Zero Tolerance” comment implies that the assistant mayor had advocated killing Brignol Lindor, when from everything I have seen the�official was clearly saying that�Lindor and�other�government opponents should be removed from their jobs at the city’s ports, because those jobs were considered political patronage jobs for loyal government supporters. �Also, I believe it is vital to�presenting a balanced�context of the attack�to mention�that a friend of the alleged assailants had been killed that morning.

<<Spanish journalist and correspondent for Spanish television station Antena 3, Ricardo Ortega was killed on 7 March 2004 while covering a demonstration by opponents of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was shot twice in the chest when Aristide supporters allegedly opened fire on the demonstrators while they were dispersing. He died of his wounds at Canap� Vert hospital, in Port-au-Prince…>>

This paragraph unequivocally implies that Aristide supporters did the killing.� As far as I know, there is absolutely no evidence that this was the case, other than the fact that Aristide supporters were present at the time, and may have been shooting. There is ample evidence that others- Aristide opponents, police and US military were also shooting there. The only investigation I have seen, by one of Ricardo’s colleagues, pointed to the US Marines (see http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/22/1425237). [This report] certainly deserves a place in any balanced account of Ortega’s death.

I would appreciate it if you would correct these imbalances in your alert. Let me know if you have any questions.

Regards, Brian�Concannon Jr.

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