Freedom of Expression

Press release R44/22

SRFOE condemns the use of firearms during a protest in Haiti that resulted in the death of a journalist and several people injured

March 2, 2022

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the shooting attacks during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As a result of the shooting, one journalist died, and two other journalists were injured. The Rapporteur’s Office urges a prompt and effective investigation of the events and the punishment of those responsible, in addition to the State respecting and guaranteeing the right to protest.

According to available information, police officers reportedly opened fire from a national police vehicle on people demonstrating for an increase in the minimum wage in Haiti on the morning of February 23, 2022 in Port-au-Prince, the country's capital. In the events, three journalists were reportedly hit by gunfire: Maxihen Lazzare, of Roi des Infos; Sony Laurore, of Laurore News TV; and Yves Moise, of Radio RCH 2000. Maxihen Lazzare died shortly afterwards in a hospital in the capital, victim of serious wounds caused by the projectiles.  It is also reported that at least one other person participating in the protests was wounded by gunfire.

The Haitian National Police described the events as a "regrettable incident" and informed that it had learned that two police officers were linked to the shooting, indicating through a public communication that the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police and the General Inspectorate have already opened investigations to clarify the facts. Likewise, the Prime Minister Ariel Henry expressed his rejection, qualifying the facts as "brutal acts", condemned the violence against the demonstration and reminded that it is the role of the Public Power to guarantee the freedom of demonstration.

 The State has the duty to respect and guarantee the exercise of peaceful social protest by citizens, which is considered a fundamental tool in the defense of democracy and human rights. In this context, the protection of the right to freedom of expression protects the right to record and disseminate any incident and the authorities must ensure the necessary conditions for journalists to cover events of public interest, such as those related to social protests, given the essential role of the press for citizens to have access to information.

Likewise, as the Rapporteur’s Office has pointed out in the report Protest and Human Rights, the use of police force is exceptional and, within this framework, must satisfy the principles of legality, absolute necessity and proportionality. There are no circumstances that enable the use of lethal force to indiscriminately shoot at the protesting crowd.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State to act in accordance with these duties and consequently respect, protect and guarantee the right to peaceful protest in Haiti. Furthermore, this Office reiterates the duty of the State to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.