Freedom of Expression

Press Release R151/19

The Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns the murder of journalist Petión Rospide and expresses its concern over the ongoing violence against journalists in the framework of the public demonstrations’ coverage in Haiti

June 14, 2019

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of Journalist Petión Rospide that took place on Monday, June 10 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This Office was also informed about cases of assault against reporters and media workers in the framework of the public demonstrations carried out in different Haitian cities.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State of Haiti to exhaustively investigate this crime in a complete, effective, and impartial manner, and to determine its connection with Mr. Rospide’s journalistic work. Likewise, this Office is concerned about the country’s violent situation and therefore urges the State to adopt all necessary measures to protect and guarantee the media’s activity.

According to public information, Radio Sans Fin presenter Petión Rospide was allegedly shot down while driving back home in an official vehicle of the radio station where he worked at in Port-au-Prince. The reporter, aged 45, had just finished his radio show, during which he focused on corruption accusations against the administration of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur was informed about the escalation of violence during the demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in the country since last Thursday, June 8, including attacks against journalists in the context of these public demonstrations’ coverage. For example, according to the media, on Sunday, June 9, two journalists reported they were almost shot down by the Haitian police. In addition, there were other cases registered, such as the one involving a photographer of the newspaper, Le Nouvelliste who was allegedly injured by rubber bullets. Furthermore, Radio Tele Ginen reporters were allegedly stoned and their cars vandalized on Monday, June 10. During his radio show, Mr. Rospide reported these cases of assault and also informed about the attack against two Radio Tele Ginen vehicles by groups of demonstrators.

President Moïse issued a public statement on Tuesday, June 11, describing Mr. Petión Rospide’s murder as a "heinous act." The president declared that he "vehemently condemn[ed] this evil crime," and he also expressed his rejection regarding other reported attacks against local media.

On multiple occasions, both the Commission and the IAHR Court have referred to the frightening effect of the crimes committed against journalists and other media professionals, and their impact on citizens aiming at reporting abuse of power and illegal acts of any nature.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that "the murder, kidnapping, intimidation, threat to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of the media, violates people’s fundamental rights and severely restricts the freedom of expression. It is the duty of the States to prevent and investigate these acts, to punish their perpetrators and to assure the victims of adequate reparation."

Regarding violence against journalists, the State has the obligation to investigate with due diligence and exhaust all logical lines of inquiry linked to the practice of journalism. Authorities should not rule out the practice of journalism as a motive for murder and/or aggression before the investigation is completed. The authorities should also provide adequate resources and specialized personnel to the institutions responsible for the investigation of this type of matter.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that the State has a duty to ensure that journalists and communicators who are working in the context of a public demonstration are not detained, threatened, assaulted, or limited in any way in their rights because they are exercising their profession. Their material and work tools should not be destroyed or confiscated by public authorities. The protection of the right to freedom of expression requires that authorities ensure the necessary conditions so that journalists can cover public interest events such as those related to social protests.

In this sense, the Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Haitian State to exhaustively investigate Mr. Petión Rospide’s murder in a complete, effective and impartial manner, to establish the motives for it, and to legally determine whether there was any connection with his journalistic activity and freedom of expression. Likewise, this Office makes an urgent call regarding the protection and guarantee of the rights to life and integrity of demonstrators and media communicators covering such protests. Finally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that journalist Vladjimir Legagneur has been missing since March 14, 2018, and urges the State to accelerate the investigations on the alleged facts causing his disappearance.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with the aim of encouraging the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given its fundamental role in consolidating and developing the democratic system.