Freedom of Expression

Press Release 69/03


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at the OAS, Eduardo A. Bertoni, expresses serious concern over the increasing threats and aggression against journalists, which create adverse conditions for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Haiti.   

According to the information received, Michèle Montas, director of Radio Haiti Inter and widow of the journalist Jean Dominique, murdered in 2000, declared that she continues to receive threats that put the radio station’s personnel in imminent danger. As a result, on Saturday, February 22, 2003, Radio Haiti Inter will suspend its broadcast for an indefinite period of time.   

It is also troubling that during February of 2003, journalists Jean Numa Goudou and Nancy Roc, of Radio Métropole, both suffered attacks in their homes.  As a protest against the numerous threats that the radio station has been receiving since the beginning of the year, its director decided to suspend the news broadcasts for twenty-four hours. In recent months, several radio stations had to suspend their broadcast as well, in order to protect their personnel and facilities against constant threats.  Particularly, Radio Maxima had to go off the air since its facilities were destroyed in January.  Likewise, threats and physical aggressions are rising considerably and, in order to be safe, journalists have to hide or flee.  

The attacks against Haitian journalists committed since the beginning of 2003 are not isolated incidents: the assassinations of Jean Léopold Dominique, in 2000, and Brignol Lindor, in 2001, remain unpunished, as does the attempt to assassinate Michèle Montas, in December of 2002, in which one of her bodyguards was killed.  

During the year 2002, Mr. Bertoni visited Haiti twice and had the opportunity to gather information on the exercise of freedom of expression in that country.  By the end of both visits, he recommended that the Haitian Government ensure the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression for all inhabitants of the country.  Once more, the Rapporteur recalls that “freedom of expression means not only being able to express ideas and opinions, but also the ability to do so without suffering arbitrary consequences or acts of intimidation”.    

Eduardo A. Bertoni 
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression 
Washington, D.C. 
February 21, 2003