Freedom of Expression

Press Release R71/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its extreme concern over the disappearance of journalist Vladjimir Legagneur in Haiti, and urges the authorities to take necessary measures to determine his whereabouts


March 29, 2018


Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the Haitian authorities to adopt the necessary measures to determine the situation and whereabouts of the journalist Vladjimir Legagneur, missing since March 14, 2018 in one of the most dangerous areas of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In addition to protecting the rights to life and personal integrity of Legagneur, the State must direct a thorough investigation into the alleged events that led to his disappearance.


According to the available information, the 30 year old photo-journalist left his house at 9:00 a.m. in the morning of March 14 to report on the living conditions in Grand Ravine, in the district Martissant, from which he never returned. His wife, Fleurette G. Legagneur, reported his disappearance to the Judicial Police Central Directorate (DCPJ) to determine his whereabouts.


A freelancer since 2017, Legagneur previously worked for the newspaper Le Matin, the online news agency Loop Haïti and other media outlets. In addition to news stories, he covered news on social issues and worked for NGOs in the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that according to the local organization Kolektif 2 Dimansyon (K2D), Legagneur was working on an independent project exploring the aftermath of clashes between police and gangs in the neighborhood of Grand-Ravine.


On Thursday March 29, media outlets reported that the Haitian police had conducted an intensive search of the area and found body parts in a vacant site in the locality of Palema, Grand Ravine; site where the photojournalist Vladimir went. According to a police report, agents recovered bones without a skull which have been transferred to the scientific police for a DNA test to determine their identity.


Previously, the National Police (PNH) spokesman, Frantz Lerebours declared on March 26 that the authorities had no trace of the journalist’s whereabouts, and feared a fatal outcome. "In such cases, where there have been no demands for ransom, we fear a fatal outcome," "the situation is very worrisome, but we cannot presume of his death without having found his body," he added.


Various media and defense organizations of journalists such as the National Association of Haitian Media (ANHM), Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), among others, expressed their concern over the slow investigation and the silence of the police and judicial authorities on the measures taken to locate the journalist, who disappeared two weeks ago.


In relation to violence against journalists, the State has the obligation to investigate with due diligence and exhaust all logical lines of inquiry related to the exercise of journalistic activity; an investigation that fails to consider aspects tied to the regional context, as well as the journalist’s professional activity, will be less likely to yield results. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists upon the need to create special investigative bodies and protocols.


Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.